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E-waste, a growing concern for India

Source: ZEE News, Date: , 2013


Even as India is trying to devise environmental friendly ways to dispose garbage, the specter of Electronical-waste (E-waste) destroying the balance of the nation’s ecological health has already started looming over. More worrying is the absence of a regulatory framework to dispose or recycle e-waste further compounded by a lack of general awareness.

According to a report named “E-waste in India” by Rajya Sabha Secretariat, E-waste from old computers would jump by 400 per cent on 2007 levels in China and by 500 per cent in India by 2020. In addition, E-waste from discarded mobile phones would be about seven times higher than 2007 levels and, in India, 18 times higher by 2020. Such predictions highlight the urgent need to address the problem of E-waste in developing countries like India where the collection and management of E-waste and the recycling process is yet to be properly regulated. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat has culled this data from a report called “E-waste a growing problem for China and India” by Computing, a UK based business technology publication.

Rapid technological advancement and ever increasing obsolescence rate of consumer electronics and electrical items has undoubtedly created the precarious situation. Our failure to devise unhazardous ways of waste disposal was grimly highlighted during the Mayapuri radiation leak case in early 2010. The incident where a person lost his life due to exposure to Cobalt-60 at Mayapuri scrapyard in West Delhi should have ideally served as a wake-up call for our authorities towards the unmonitored mounting quantity of hazardous waste including E-waste. More importantly, it exposed systemic gaps on the issue.

Revealing the darker side of technological advancements, Professor S C Rajora from the University of Kota, Rajasthan says, “spectacular developments in modern times have undoubtedly enhanced the quality of our lives. At the same time, these have led to manifold problems including the problem of massive amount of hazardous waste and other wastes generated from electric products. These hazardous and other wastes pose a great threat to the human health and environment.”

Another survey conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimated that 1.47 lakh million tonnes per annum of E-waste was generated in the country during 2005. CPCB also revealed that Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab are among the top ten states generating about 70 per cent of the total E-waste.

Taking a huge step in this direction the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests notified E-waste Management and Handling Rules that come into force on May 1st, 2012. The rules were notified in advance and provided a lead time of one year to all stakeholders to put systems in place for an effective compliance to the Rules.

The E-waste Management and Handling Rules put the onus of e-waste management on Manufacturers or the brands through the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The E-waste Management and Handling Rules put the onus of e-waste management on Manufacturers or the brands through the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

However, mere enactment of laws won’t help as the enforcement is weak. According to a Delhi based NGO, Toxics Link, Consumer awareness, another major responsibility of the producers is critical in improving compliance but in the past one year there has been almost negligible effort in this direction. There is no information on collection centers and collection points across many cities in the country, a major setback in rolling out the E-waste rules from May 1, 2012.

Expressing concern over the sloppy and unsafe E-waste disposal system in India, Priti Banthia Mahesh, Senior Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link (Delhi) says, “The inefficient functioning of E-waste disposal system is running without hindrance in India and it is unlikely to change much in coming days as there is no monitoring or evaluation mechanism currently in place from the regulators side.”