A cross-section of speakers, from non-governmental organisations, government and businesses, today came together in Mumbai to discuss issues, problems and solutions pertaining to the spiraling issue of e-waste in India, particularly in view of the absence of legislation on it.
Speaking at a day-long workshop titled: E-waste Management: Perspective and Challenges- A Multi-stakeholder workshop on e-waste management in Mumbai, participants underscored the urgency for addressing the issue of e-waste regulation and its scientific management.
It was a rare gathering with diverse stakeholders, ranging from national and international non-governmental organisations to state pollution control body and software corporates, sitting across the table to not just blow whistle on the emerging threat of e-waste but also to flesh out future directions.
Satish Sinha, Chief Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link, in his welcome address urged those present to come up with consensus-based alternatives to manage the new-age menace. Highlighting the significance of Mumbai as the venue for this important workshop he said: “Mumbai, India's commercial capital, is one of the largest consumers of electronic goods in the country. The rapid change in technology, high obsolescence rate of electronics goods and imports of e-junk in port cities make it the most appropriate place for such a discussion.”
Mr. Sinha also stressed on the pioneering work done by Toxics Link through ground-breaking research. He, however, added that the issue now needs to be taken to the next level by providing workable models that involve the industry, consumers and state agency.
Dr D B Boralkar, Member Secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, in his key note address, emphasized on the need for creating state-level expertise as Maharashtra is currently the largest contributor to the e-waste with Mumbai alone contributing around 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes per year.
“The issue needs to be seen in its totality, prticularly with regard to investment. People need to pay for cleaner environment, and MPCB role would be to provide support system,” he said.
“Around 40 crores of investment is required to manage a 100,000 ton of hazardous waste”, he claimed.
Dr Kishore Wankhade, Regional Coordinator, Toxics Link Mumbai, made a presentation on 'E-waste in India: A Ground Perspective'. He provided a comprehensive outlook of the Indian scenario and asserted that: “Smaller, faster and cheaper – these are the defining qualities of today's computers and consumer electronics. Yet, despite the pace of advancement, product designers and industry have ignored the public health hazard and environmental consequences of these products once they are discarded or rendered obsolete.”
An important aspect that came up for discussion was emphasis on promotion of extended producer responsibility (EPR). The aim of EPR is to encourage producers to prevent pollution and reduce resource and energy use in each stage of the product life cycle through changes in product design and process technology. In its widest sense, this means producer responsibility is the principle that producers bear a degree of responsibility for all environmental impacts of their products. This includes upstream impacts arising from the choice of materials and from the manufacturing process as well as the downstream impacts, i.e., from use and disposal of products.
Mr. Rajeev Yadav, Joint Commissioner Customs, Mumbai, triggered a thought provoking discussion on the condition of customs on legislation on import of secondhand computers. He said:“There is a need for clarity on imports of e-waste, and the legislation regarding it, etc.”
Bas de Leeuw, head of strategy unit of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said, "India should design a better legal structure and all stake holders should be taken into confidence to protect the environment."
"Large scale unethical export of e-waste by industrialised nations is taking place," he added.
The workshop was organised jointly by Toxics Link, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).