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Death by virtual world

Documentary>>Citizens at Risk, How Electronic Waste is Poisoning the Path out of Poverty for India's Recyclers Produced by IMAK and Chintan

 
By Abhinav Rathi
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Not too young for e-waste

Mustafabad on the eastern fringes of Delhi is the place where personal computers come to die from many parts of the country--even the world. Here you can watch its monitors being removed, its motherboards dismantled for copper.

You can also watch the last rites of discarded electronic devices like televisions, floppies, CDs, batteries, telephones, air conditioners, cellphones, refrigerators and washing machines. These products contain components that contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, chromium, polyvinyl chloride and carcinogens like carbon black and heavy metals. The deadly mix can cause severe health problems for those handling the waste. It could even prove fatal.

It's a ghastly story.But there is something endearing about the way directors of Citizens at Risk bring the characters to life. We meet 28-year-old Fazlur who explains how to extract gold from integrated circuit boards of computers. "It's dangerous, but I have no option," he says giving an affectionate pat to a goat nearby. Fazlur is among the few who know the perils of the trade. But his immediate goal is to secure the future of his children.

Then there is Rais: just a month into the business, he dreams of breaking into the big league of e-waste dealers. He has started making profits, but it's a paltry 10 per cent. This sprightly young man does not think much about the perils of his job. The government has no plans for entrepreneurs like him.

Abhinav Rathi is a filmmaker

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