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Empowering waste pickers through hackathons

They scale the trash mountain barefoot fighting the overpowering stench and the 'black' stream oozing from the decaying garbage in search of livelihood.

Published: 13th April 2018 04:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2018 04:29 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: They scale the trash mountain barefoot fighting the overpowering stench and the 'black' stream oozing from the decaying garbage in search of livelihood. Though society treats them as outcasts the dreams of the morrow keep them alive. Pained by the sight of children searching among the trash to eke out a living, Gayathri Handanahal, a social worker in Bengaluru, sought the support of the Indian Institute of Science to improve their lives and ensure them better living conditions.

They were looking for out-of-the-box solutions and Gayathri's Waste Impact Trust came up with the idea of conducting a hackathon to find alternative ideas for waste management and betterment of the lives of waste pickers. That was in April 2016.

"There were around 200 participants, including researchers, engineers, professionals and representatives of voluntary organisations. We invited 40 waste pickers also to attend the brainstorming sessions. They were called domain experts. For four days, the participants racked their brains to create innovative solutions for the problems the waste pickers face. They visited the slums where the waste pickers live and the waste dumpyard to understand the problems. There were 20 mentors too. They came up with 36 solutions and 12 participants made it to the finals. We chose six of them for prices. They were given a 45-day challenge to develop prototypes with the help of experts. They developed trixie, a simple machine to extract copper wire from cables, and waste samaritans, an app to help waste collectors," said Gayathri.

Gayathri, who arrived in Kochi to attend the national conference on marine debris at the CMFRI, told Express it was the sight of women and children wading through knee-deep muck to collect garbage that made her think about empowering the waste pickers. "We also organised a hackathon to find solutions to the problems faced by roadside vendors. There were 32 solutions and three of them are being piloted. Another hackathon will be held in August this year to find solutions to the problems faced by fishermen and farmers, she said.

Hackathon on waste management in Kochi

Gayathri's Waste Impact Trust is planning to organise a hackathon in Kochi on waste management. "We are holding talks with like-minded people to understand the problems involved and the issues that need to be addressed," said Gayathri.

Out-of-the-box solutions

Pained by the sight of children searching among the trash to eke out a living, Gayathri Handanahal, a social worker in Bengaluru,sought the support of the Indian Institute of Science to improve their lives and ensure them better living conditions.



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