The Ghazipur landfill in New Delhi, India is an Everest of trash. It’s 20 stories high—the Taj Mahal only a couple dozen feet taller—and it bakes in 100 degree heat every day. But, for photographer Rishabh Malik, it’s the subject of a poignant photo series—a reflection of how our choices of the past affect our present.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS BY RISHABH MALIK
It wasn’t until we were caught up in chaos and fear did we realize that extreme measures had to be taken to ensure survival and minimize damage that a global event like COVID-19 could cause. We were unprepared, and more truthfully, oblivious; almost like a child’s vision of being unsure to the possibilities of our actions. And yet, oblivion didn’t save the event from happening. It is our intent and continuing efforts that count. And so, this is a reminder.
A city like New Delhi, home to nearly 28 million people in one of the fastest growing economies of the world, is also home to one of the largest garbage landfills in the world. With nearly 2,200 tons of fresh waste being dumped daily, it is poised to grow taller than the Taj Mahal by 2020, marking two creations of man in the same nation—one created for love, and one perhaps, for the lack of it.
This is a reminder of all the ways we had to change and all the ways we had to restrict and limit ourselves to survive. And surely, change has been seen as a threat to freedom, but this is a reminder to perhaps view freedom in a new light, to view change as a natural evolution for our growth as not only a species—but for us being as essential a part of nature as the trees, or birds, as mountains, and rivers.
Ghazipur landfill, situated on the eastern border of New Delhi, India, reached its peak capacity in the year 2000, and nearly 20 years later, continues to be a prime example of how our choices affect our present. Notwithstanding the increasing pollution levels in the river nearby, or the health hazard to millions of residents barely a few hundred meters away—or the mountain of heap itself as a magnificent collection of our waste displayed as a piece of art through the labour of our callousness—if one could argue, moments like these are moments of immense importance, for this is where we get required to choose, to act, to change.
The Earth is bleeding. And we need change. Not from others. Not from the government. Not from the ones who are “affected,” but from all of us. We need a serious overhaul in the way we see life, ourselves, our aspirations, and our ideas of expression. It’s almost like asking ourselves the only question that has probably ever mattered: What are we really here for? For what is life but what we make of it?
These are snapshots of our footprint, of our choices and the lack thereof, of our will to change, and our pursuit for comforts. And while we lay in our bleeding home, with our broken conscience, it’s important to look at ourselves in the mirror—to pierce through the flesh of our skin, through the sparkle of our eye, through the smiles and the frowns, and just observe all that there is within. Observe what’s within. And then only, perhaps, we could see things for what they really are.