1.7 - Gold-panning in India
I came across this in Private Eye the other day:
"Panning for gold in the sewers is like looking for a needle in a haystack," Samir Sheikh told reporters at the Zaveri bazaar in Mumbai, "so we do meticulous research beforehand, to help us hunt it down. First, we find out where the goldsmiths live, and follow them home from the bazaar after work. Then, when the goldsmiths shower, the gold dust on their hands and body comes off, and flows out into the sewer. Then we collect the filth that pours out of the sewer into the gutter, and pan it for gold. It's slow and dirty work, but most weeks I can collect about 2 grams of gold this way, which is worth about US$74."
Jeweller Rajesh Solanki regards sewer-panning as part of India's cultural aversion to any form of waste. "When you throw away a bottle, someone will collect it, and it's the same with the gold. The gold-panners are part of of the system. We jewellers don't have the time or the wherewithal to put the gold dust to use, but they do."
Some predict that India's rising prosperity will put an end to such frugality, but environmentalist Bharati Chaturvedi believes that the opposite may be true. "As people consume more," she says, "there will be more waste, and even more opportunities for recycling at the micro level, especially in the sewers"
-Christian Science Monitor 26/3/10
Now, I can't comment on the legitimacy or bias of the source, but it's such a dense, dynamic social set up; character surveillance, waste economies of geology, people as vehicles for invisible wealth - it's just crying out to be turned into a project.
This also reminds me of how, despite the copius amounts of Irn Bru consumed in Scotland, I never saw any of the glass bottles of the stuff littering the streets. Now Edinburgh - like all cities - has its fair share of litter, but Barr (who make Irn Bru) try to reuse their glass bottles so if you take them back to the shop you get the 30p 'deposit' back. Bottles of Irn Bru are sometimes called 'glass cheques'.
It was only after having lived there for a few months that I discovered a homeless guy collecting them from the streets and bins around the city centre. It was a much quicker was to make money than waiting around for donations and had the happy side effect of reducing litter in the area too. I always wanted to include that in a project but never seemed to find the right opportunity....Next up: Bartlett Unit 24 Projects 2010