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Raghu Rai captures sad scavengers on camera

The great Indian photo-journalist Raghu Rai, commissioned by the British architect John McAslan, has produced an extraordinary portrayal of the lives of the kabaris – waste-pickers who comb through and recycle thousands of tons of waste dumped daily on Delhi's biggest landfill site, Ghazipur.

McAslan, who is working on projects in India, encountered the kabaris after meeting Bharati Chaturvedi, who leads the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. Chaturvedi is raising consciousness about the urgent need for better organised waste recycling that, ultimately, will not involve children.

The kabaris of Ghazipur are a unique community of more than 1,100 people, entirely dependent on recycling for a living. Of the 690 children living in the Ghazipur landfill community in 2011, an estimated 179 worked as kabaris, and 221 attended school.

Rai's compassionate portraits reveal the ostensibly unremarkable details of the lives of the kabaris: glimpses of effort and dignity, flashes of ebullience and gaiety, rigours of survival flickering with vividly expressed energies in a profoundly squalid landscape subject to dioxin leaching and sudden methane explosions.

Nineteen of Raghu Rai's Ghazipur photographs will be auctioned after being exhibited in London to raise money for Chintan's initiative.

Raghu Rai, JMP Gallery, London NW1 ( www.mcaslan.co.uk/exhibitions) to 30 September