Life of a Scavenger

Managua, Nicaragua – November 2004

La Chureca is the biggest garbage dump in Central America, it is a lively sewer of the capital of Nicaragua. This dumping ground, which has 70 acres, lies on the shores of a completely contaminated lake Xolotlán. The estimated amount of the untreated waste accumulated here since 1975 is 5 million tons. Everything is brought here without exception, there is no garbage separation. Inorganic waste, food, dead animals, cans, glass, metals, trash from demolitions, also infectious biowaste. La Chureca is the only dump in Central America where solid waste from hospitals is brought: human remains from surgery, blood.

Nicaragua is the poorest country of Central America. Hundreds of human waste recyclers search in tons of smouldering garbage mainly metals (copper, aluminium, bronze), others concentrate on glass which is cheap, but in bigger amount. (To compare: the price of ordinary dinner on the streets of Managua equals a collection of 20-30 kilos of glass pieces a day). The overwhelming majority of the searchers are families with children for whom recycling is a normal way how to make their living. The children very often eat the food they find on the dump, none of them goes to school. Many of them sniff glue, the drug of the poorest.

According to a study made by the Faculty of Medicine of the National Autonomous University in Managua (UNAN), more than 30 per cent of the children who live on the garbage dump show high levels of lead, mercury and DDT in blood due to a continuous contact with garbage and consumption of fish from the contaminated lake, 40 per cent of them have cutaneous diseases and more than a half of the children have parasites in their intestines.

The inhabitants of Managua say that there is the end of the world in Nicaragua. It si called La Chureca.

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Copyright © 2015 Jan Sochor. No photographs and text may be used or reproduced in any form.