The Gorai Garbage Site Closure Project in the city of Mumbai, India has become the winner of the City to City Barcelona FAD Award 2014. The prize is awarded by FAD (Fostering Arts and Design) and Barcelona City Hall, in order to recognise on an international scale any urban transformation processes experienced by a particular city anywhere in the world.

The award was given in the hope that the method of closure could, in the judge's words, become "a paradigm for many other of the planet’s cities in successfully tackling three fundamental issues for the development of the contemporary city: management, renaturalization and productivity".

Also running up in the awards were:

  • Map Kibera, Nairobi: started up in 2009 by Mikel Maron and Erica Hagen in one of the most densely populated and marginalized suburbs of Nairobi, collaborating with local grassroots organizations such as Carolina for Kibera. They used digital tools to increase the community’s influence and representation, empowering a group of local young people. Through the project, the suburb’s residents have gained in security, representation and influence.
  • Bangladesh's BRAC University, which, through urban development plans, designs the integration into the city of a large number of citizens who have become isolated in the marginal districts, the slums. They use educational, recreational and self-sufficiency projects. The slum community’s participation in the decision-taking on these plans is crucial and allows the clans that make up the neighbourhood to come together and thus improve their relations.
  • Libera Terra, Italy, which was founded in 1995 to recover and promote the use by the citizens of lands seized from the Mafia with the goal of growing and harvesting high-quality produce through environmentally-friendly methods that respect people’s dignity. It provides work for the residents through cooperatives, with a healthy economic system based on legality and justice.

Mumbai landfill site restoration - the winner

In the city that is the setting for the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, a new, more controlled and non-polluting way of managing the waste generated in Mumbai now permits the authorities to focus on the city's periphery, where the Gorai landfill is located, as a place where recreational areas of natural beauty for residents may be constructed, in the understanding that the city is developing as an urban continuum beyond its supposed limits.

The project has converted a seriously deteriorated and polluted location, by containing and covering it with vegetation and collecting the off-gassing methane gas from the landfilled waste to burn in a turbine and generate electricity.

Gorai landfill rubbish or garbage site conversion - a series of photographs

Gorai Landfill site now

Gorai Landfill site now.

Since 1972 there had been a giant 19-hectare landfill site immediately adjacent to a residential area, blighting the lives of the neighbours. Owing to the pollution and the fetid air, many of them suffered respiratory problems and the hygienic and aesthetic conditions degraded the life of the district and the city. The Gorai Landfill Closure and Gas Capture has put an end to this situation.

Mumbai, with its 17 million inhabitants, is one of India’s main generators of solid waste. Every day since the Gorai landfill site opened, 1,200 tons of waste were deposited there. In 2009 the accumulation of 2.34 million tons reached a height of 26 metres. However, until very recently, environmentally- and citizen-friendly waste management was not a municipal priority. This changed in the year 2000 with the Municipal Solid Waste Rules that made it compulsory to collect, transport and treat solid waste in hygienic, sanitary sites and not in open-air landfills.

In 2007 the Mumbai Supreme Court ordered the ambitious task of closing down the Gorai landfill site and transforming it into a green space to improve the neighbours’ quality of life and move forward towards a more environmentally friendly city.

A great green 19-hectare park was inaugurated in 2009. This is a truly charming space affording the best views of the city and of the Vipassana Buddhist Pagoda. The quality of life in Gorai is better and has pushed up the price of housing. The temperature in the area has dropped by several degrees and the clean air no longer reveals the history of this place nor the reasons why the neighbours used to complain. Mumbai is now starting to close down Deonar, the city’s oldest landfill site.

The prize-giving ceremony for the award will take place on 8 July 2014 at the Saló de Cent of Barcelona City Hall.