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Issue 34
March , 2012
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Chennai sits on a growing e-waste pile

Christian Mathew Philip
Source: Times of India, Date: January , 2012

A Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) recommendation to set up e-waste collection centers is gathering dust. Corporation sources say many people refuse to leave their products for free at such centers. The city annually generates more than 30,000 tonnes of e-waste, and it is growing. By 2030, this is projected to touch two lakh tonnes.

Environmentalists and social activists fear that free distribution of television and laptops will add to the e-waste heap. Lead and other toxic substances in e-waste pose health hazards. Most of the e-waste from smaller computer firms ends up in landfills. With the share of e-waste in dump sites like Kodungaiyur and Perungudi growing over the years, environmentalists thought the proposed collection centers in 15 zones would reduce the burden of the dump sites, but the idea doesn't seem viable.

"It looks tough because people don't part with e-waste for free," said a senior corporation official. The e-waste inventory prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2005 put the annual e-waste generation across the country at 1.46 lakh tones. In Chennai, personal computers, televisions and mobile phones contribute 26,183 tonnes to the e-waste heap. Chennai does not have government-run recycling plants or collection centres for e-waste, but a private recycling plant at Urappakkam handles e-waste from the Madras Export Promotion Zone (MEPZ).

"Ideally there should be one collection centre per zone," said a senior official of TNCB. Corporation commissioner P W C Davidar said the civic body is focusing on solid waste segregation. "After thorough discussions with other officials, the decision of e-waste collection centers would be finalized," he said.

Arun Senthilram of Toxics Link, who is also a member of the state e-waste policy drafting committee, said the panel is involved in a detailed study of e-waste in the city. "Maybe paying a nominal amount would encourage people to deposit e-waste at the collection centres," he said.

Infrastructure Management and Advisory Services, a consultant appointed by the corporation in 2008 has recommended a ban on dumping e-waste in landfills. According to its report, e-waste treatment in the city was being carried out in an unregulated environment with no control on emissions- generation of mixed e-waste fractions along with hazardous waste after dismantling, generation of effluents during metal extraction, emissions due to burning of printed circuit board and resultant air pollution.

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