La Chira Landfill, Lima, Peru

Villa was once a quiet seaside cove where families would come to picnic on Sundays. A small beach just south of the Peruvian capital, Lima, it is now a stark landfill site piled high with third-world detritus, a 21st-Century no man’s land.

For decades Villa has acted as Lima’s dumping ground and as an exit-point for Peru’s untreated waste-water - 700,000 million m3 a year to be precise. It’s no wonder that what was once a beautiful beach is a now a landscape built entirely of rubbish; rolling hills of sofas, sinks and shoes, streams of sewage and batteries scattered like daisies.

The only beings to inhabit Villa are disfigured dogs and human scavengers, who squat among the filth searching for scraps of metal. They work in silence, deaf and mute to the world. The only thing to invade their space is the acrid smell of burning plastic creeping through their nostrils, wafting with the flumes of smoke that climb suspiciously from burning embers on the ground.

In 2008 a treatment plant was built to treat and reuse wastewater. Since then pollution has decreased and health problems have all but disappeared. Families have even started returning to the beach adjacent to Villa. They sit on the edge of the rubble, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean; a vast expanse of brown-grey sea, the murky water ebbs and froths at their feet, washing up confetti-like flakes of rubbish. It’s no surprise that nobody’s swimming.


by Katarina Horrox

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