Reaping Gold out of Sewage

By Lillian Mutheu

It’s been years now, since I first set eyes on him. The mystery man, the hard-working sewage man: at least, that is what I named him. I sit down in my apartment as I think about him. People say he is crazy, and to some extent, I too, think he is. What kind of a normal living human being would enter into sewage, rather, sink his legs into dirty sewage and start scraping stuff? Well, the sewage man does that, almost every day and that is his daily hustle.

I tend to think that he’s not the only one who benefits from sewage waste. There are many chokora and street kids that reap their daily living off tanks of garbage and sewages around the city. It is quite unfortunate the kind of work they have to do every day to at least earn a little to feed themselves and their families. 

These people face a lot of health hazards. The kind of waste in sewages can be toxic and harmful to a human body. Toilet waste, kitchen waste, market waste and even poisonous waste usually make their way to the sewages.  The smell from these sewages can not even be described as smell: it is odor, sewage-odor, the kind that hurts nostrils when you pass by sewage and innocently try to normally breathe in oxygen for your survival. When I walk past one, I tend to hold my breath for like five seconds until I am past the sewage: but for these people, it’s what they breathe.

Think of all the dangers they face. Such waste is usually rich in bacteria of all kinds. Amoeba, cholera-causing bacteria, cannabis-albicans, bilharzia and many dangerous types of bacteria live in those sewages. There are sharp objects, razor blades, needles, knives and broken kitchen ware such as plates. Considering that these people have no safety boots on, since most of them only have sandals and flip flops, they are in danger of being cut by sharp objects. It is quite paradoxical though that I have never seen one of them sick. How can they not? After exposing themselves to such hazards.

Thinking on the bright side while trying to put my perception in their situation, these people reap a lot of good stuff that is gold to them. Talking to the mystery man, he said, “when I get inside these sewages, I get out with a lot of plastic bottles. I then clean them and sell them to be renewed. Sometimes I get lucky to dig up rather valuable items such as hand watches, shoes, belts, scrap metal and even clothes. After cleaning them up, I sell them and get enough to buy food. This is how I feed my family. This is my work.”

True to his words, that is his work. To him he hustles just like everyone else. It really is a dangerous line of work, a hazardous field of gold mine, but what more can he do? A man definitely has to feed his family, that is his way.


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