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Trade talks may spike proposal to ban e-waste

DNA, India

Trade talks may spike proposal to ban e-waste

By Priyanka Golikeri / DNA

25 January 2010

Mumbai: India’s free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with EU and Japan are likely to prevent a proposal to ban trade in electronic waste (e-waste) from being incorporated in the draft rules to be notified by the environment ministry in two months.

Abhishek Pratap, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) will notify the Electronic Waste Handling and Management Rule, under the Environment Protection Act by March 2010.

“Stakeholders have proposed a clause in the rule to completely ban import and export of e-waste,” Pratap said. However, experts say the FTAs being negotiated would facilitate trade of waste, including e-waste, oil contaminated products, incinerator ash, etc. from developed economies into India, as there is apprehension that wastes would be included in the list of goods enjoying preferential tariffs.

E-waste includes used/discarded computers, mobile phones, air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, etc.

About 50,000 tonne of e-waste is imported into India annually, according to an e-waste assessment study by Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) and GTZ, an enterprise for sustainable development.

E-waste in India is growing at 20% per annum (including both imports and self-generated), equivalent to the rate at which electronic equipments are being discarded globally.

According to Okechukwu Ibeanu, special rapporteur, United Nations Human Rights Council, e-waste is one of the most hazardous waste streams worldwide, as electronics contain over 50 chemicals or heavy metals that can affect health if not disposed in an environmentally safe manner.

Pratap says that though legally, e-waste is not allowed into India, it finds its way under the mix-metal and metal scrap categories.
“Waste follows the path of least resistance into countries such as India. FTAs will legitimise the already existing trade in waste,” says Gopal Krishna, convener, environmental body, Toxics Watch.

Ibeanu says several countries have expressed concern over bilateral trade agreements being the basis for trade in waste. “In the form of trade, it is easier for developing countries to import second-hand equipments. In developed countries, there are higher environmental standards, which imply that ways have to be developed to dispose the waste. It becomes cheaper to dispose it in developing countries. So the push factor from developed countries and pull factor from developing countries facilitates this trade,” Ibeanu told DNA, adding that there should be clear transparency in bilateral negotiations to ensure that no trade in waste takes place.