India: Dumping Ground for Developed Countries?

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India: Dumping Ground For Developed Countries?
By Chaitanya Gaikwad
M.Sc. Environmental Science
Paper presented at Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), Pune, India

Basel Convention
Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous wastes and their Disposal

In the late 1980s, a tightening of environmental regulations in industrialized countries led to a dramatic rise in the cost of hazardous waste disposal. Searching for cheaper ways to get rid of the wastes, “toxic traders” began shipping hazardous waste to developing countries and to Eastern Europe. When this activity was revealed, international outrage led to the drafting and adoption of the Basel Convention. During its first Decade (1989-1999), the Convention was principally devoted to setting up a framework for controlling the “transboundary” movements of hazardous wastes, that is, the movement of hazardous wastes across international frontiers. It also developed the criteria for “environmentally sound management”. A Control System, based on prior written notification, was also put into place.

Supreme Court verdict

The Delhi High Court imposed a ban on the import of all toxic/hazardous wastes in 1996. Yet research by NGOs reveal that the waste still continues to come in, despite the a renewed ban issued by the Supreme Court of India. Owing to industry pressure, Indian Government has been vacillating on stricter enforcement.

“Export” by developed countries

Developed countries of world such as Australia, United States etc. are exporting their hazardous and toxic waste to the developing countries like India under the name of recycle. Many times the hazardous nature of material is not This is the clear example of “not in my back yard” attitude. Though the export is done under the name of recycle these wastes are not recycled properly once they reach their destinations. India is becoming dumping ground of developed counties. The workers in the so-called recycling units face many problems due to direct exposure to these wastes. The factories which employs mostly women and children, does not have even a first-aid box, no ventilation or safety devices. Like the lead batteries, much of the plastic waste processed here is imported from the West. Rajinder Singh, 35, New Delhi, breaks imported used car batteries for a living. He pries them open and stacks the lead plates with his bare hands while his small, almost open furnace is fired to receive another batch. Backyard smelters and plastic recycling units dot India's countryside, taking lead battery scrap and plastic waste imported from developed countries such as Australia, United States etc. Three years ago the Central Pollution Control Board in Delhi had closed down 23 lead smelters because they were contaminating groundwater, cattle fodder and soil. Many of them sprang up again, this time in neighboring states. Smelters around Calcutta have caused stunted growth in children, limb deformations, blue gums, as well as cattle deaths owing to high lead levels, before their closure was ordered. The backyard smelter where Rajinder Singh works is located on a small plot of land that once grew wheat. Some lead escaped as vapor and settled in the surrounding fields, where cows graze and villagers drink from the only village well. After years of existence, Rajinder's smelter was shut down when neighbors complained that the large number of cattle deaths there were a direct result of lead poisoning. Despite the closure, the fodder and the groundwater in this village are still contaminated as ever. India is not the only country accepting hazardous waste from the wealthier developed nations; according to the UN Environment Program, 10 million tons of toxic garbage cross international borders ever year. Other countries include China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines etc. And despite the 1989 Basel Convention -- an international treaty currently signed...
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