Lack of planning: India’s 95% of e-waste is managed by unorganized sector, mainly ‘kabadiwalas’

ewaste

By Sheshu Babu*

Use of electronic materials has increased over the years, and waste emanating from disbanding of the equipment is rising rapidly particularly in cities and towns. The city of Moradabad in UP (Located on the banks of Ramganga, a tributary of Ganga) is the largest e-waste hub in the country. The city’s air quality index (AQI) peaked at 500 in 2017, the highest reading that year (“The afterlife of e- goods”, by Isher Judge Ahluwalia and Almitra Patel, December 26, 2018, indianexpress.com). A study by Assocham and NEC finds that a mere 5 per cent of India’s e-waste gets recycled less than the global rate of 20 per cent.

‘E-waste’ estimates 

The term ‘ E- waste’ is an informal popular name for electronic products nearing the end of their useful life. The electronic goods like computers, TVs, VCRs, Wires or cables, etc. have to be disposed after they become old or damaged or stop functioning. In India, solid waste management along with emergence of e- waste has become a complicated task. The total waste generated by obsolete and broken down electronic and electrical equipment was estimated to be 1,46,000 tonnes for the year 2005 which is expected to cross 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012.

According to ta Greenpeace Report in 2007, India generated 380,000 tonnes of e-waste.   Only 3% of the waste made up to the authorized recyclers facilities. According to the article ‘E-waste management: As a Challenge to Public Health in India’ by Monika and Jugal Kishore, published in the “Indian Journal of Community Medicine” (December 31, 2009, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), one of the reasons for this is that India has become a dumping ground for developed nations.

Toxic components 

E-toxic components in computers could be summarized as circuit boards containing heavy metals like lead and cadmium or batteries with cadmium, cathode ray tubes with lead oxide and barium or brominated flame retardants are hazardous. In the article ‘Environmentally Sound Options for E-wastes Management’ by Ramachandra TV and Saira Varghese K (“Envis Journal of Human Settlements”, March 2004, ces.iisc.ernet.in), an in depth study on contamination of water, air and land and the health hazards is presented.

Management and disposal

The waste produced due to unused electric goods is rising. The developed nations tried to get rid of their waste by disposing to the developing countries. This sparked outrage and led to the drafting and  of strategic plans and regulations at the Basel Convention.   The Convention secretariat at Geneva, Switzerland, facilitates the proper way for  implementation of the Convention and related agreements.

It also provides assistance and guidelines  on legal and technical issues, gathers statistical data and conducts training on the proper management of hazardous waste. The main aims of the Convention are to reduce and control transboundary movements of hazardous wastes, prevention and minimization of generation and transfer of latest technologies of management which are eco – friendly.

Mechanism 

An efficient mechanism for recycling the e-waste should be developed. In India, 95% of the waste is managed by unorganized sector mainly ‘ kabadiwalas’ , scrap dealers and dismantlers using dangerous methods to recover metals. The Global E-waste Monitor estimates 44.7 million tonnes (mt) was generated in 2016 with China, US and Japan leading producers and India stood fourth. As the danger of e- waste increases, efficient ways of collection and disposal mechanism should be developed.

Collection centers at major points in cities and towns should be started. Also, the manufacturers of goods may provide discounts on new products and collect waste goods so that they can recycle at their factories. Special locations to burn or dismantle electronic goods must be made available so that the health of people and environment remain unaffected. Proper planning is necessary to tackle e-waste and its growing menace.

*The writer from everywhere and anywhere, is a supporter of clean environment


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