, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 129-136

Survival strategies of the urban poor — scavenging and recuperation in Calcutta

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Abstract

Recuperation and recycling take place at all levels of society in economies of scarcity. For the urban poor, they may be vital to “survival strategies” or may provide important supplements to uncertain and low wages. Currently scholars and planners are reassessing scavenging and waste recovery in developing countries in order to understand the role of these activities in the urban economy. Scavengers in different areas of Calcutta are described: pavement dwellers, municipal dump workers, and squatters in an elite suburb. It is argued that these groups contribute to effective use of waste, but there are severe health and environmental problems associated with their activities. There is need for comparative studies of scavengers to understand similarities and differences across poor but growing cities.