Unregulated Electronic Waste Disposal Is Harming the Environment, Human Health: National Green Tribunal
In a recent order, the National Green Tribunal noted that India’s lack of oversight around electronic waste disposal poses a threat to human health as well as the environment and directed the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards to ensure the scientific management of electronic waste.
The order comes in response to three different applications filed to the tribunal to draw attention to the common and dangerous methods of electronic waste disposal, in violation of the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016, framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
The tribunal bench noted huge gaps in the compliance of disposal rules for electronic waste and drew attention to both the serious health implications for citizens and the lack of concern from higher authorities. “For petty benefit of retrieving metals [the] poor labor class is engaged in burning electronic wires or other wastes to the detriment of their own health and also the health of others which is not being duly checked by creating awareness,” the bench stated.
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Data from the Central Pollution Control Board states that India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20. According to a statement from the environment ministry to the tribunal, 95% of India’s electronic waste is recycled by informal laborers and scrap dealers. They burn or dissolve materials like wires in acids in order to dispose of them and retrieve metal. Burning electronic waste made from materials like copper, brass, zinc, and plastic can release toxic fumes that cause air pollution and severe health problems when inhaled. Unscientific disposal of electronic waste can also lead to soil contamination and groundwater pollution.
The bench stated, “Environmental crimes are as serious, if not more, as cases of assaults, but there is no adequate action. … Unfortunately, it appears that violation of environmental law is not the priority. Such neglect can prove very costly.”