landmines 2
Children as young as four years old must work in their daily struggle for survival

Human Rights / Children's Rights Across the World

Bangkok July 19, 2000

Response to Landfill Collapse in Payatas, Philippines

 The waste dump in Payatas is Manila's main waste dump with garbage piled as high as seven stories in some places. Impoverished squatters, including many children, live in the area and pick through the dump to collect items they can sell. When part of the garbage mountain collapsed on July 11, partly weakened from a recent typhoon, garbage crashed down onto the huts and shacks below and caught fire, apparently ignited by fallen power cables and stoves in the huts.

Many people were trapped and killed and more are still missing.
- Unfortunately, this is the latest in a long row of accidents related to inadequate solid waste management in the region, says UNEP's Regional Director, Mr. Nirmal Andrews. We have seen many tragic examples of the impact on humans as well as on the environment resulting from inadequate or poorly planned handling of waste. The sudden appearance of radioactive waste on municipal dumps in Thailand, the uncontrolled export of hazardous chemicals to Cambodia, and now finally the waste dump collapse in the Philippines are only a few warning signals of an increasing number of waste-related incidents.

UNEP's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific located in Bangkok, Thailand, and UNEP's International Environmental Technology Center in Osaka, Japan, are further reviewing actions to accelerate the work of concerned authorities in the region to address problems related to solid waste management. Several supports are already provided by UNEP, including training workshops, "best practice" guidelines and a database on Environmentally Sound Technologies for integrated waste management.
-But it is obvious that more needs to be done. At a first stage we want to learn from the disaster in Payatas about the underlying causes and what actions can be taken in the short perspective to prevent this accident to be repeated elsewhere.

In the longer perspective we need to draw the attention of concerned authorities to appropriate policies, which can be implemented and what actions can be taken to achieve safe and sustainable waste management systems. The ever-increasing population and rapid urbanization in the region cause the proliferation of waste. At the same time the complex relationship between waste generation, sustainable development, sustainable livelihood and environmental protection calls for an integrated approach that takes all aspects into consideration.

-We have since long passed the stage where waste can only be seen as an environmental problem, says Mr. Andrews. There are economic and social factors as well, that need to be integrated in the approach to waste management in any modern society. It is our call to assist Governments in the region to seek long-term solutions to this matter.

by Niclas Svenningsen , Environmental Affairs Officer at UNEP ROAP in Bangkok

Photos © and following text from: Fields International, Inc.
Sarah Project / Payatas

Children Living in The Garbage
It may be hard for many people to imagine what it would be like to live in such conditions, but that's the daily reality for the thousands who live at the Payatas dump. Many of the residents of Payatas make their living by digging through the influx of "fresh" trash, scavenging for plastic, cardboard, paper, wood, glass, metal and other items that can be sold to recycling agents.

The meager earnings made by one person are not enough to buy food for even for a day. Whole families are forced to climb the mountain each day, hoping that together they can earn enough to feed everyone. Children as young as four years old must work in their daily struggle for survival.

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