In a bid to regulate use of imported hazardous waste, the environment ministry has made state pollution control boards nodal offices ensure that the waste is recycled in an environment-friendly manner.
India is the world’s biggest importer of waste from the West but most of it is said to be unregulated. There have been reports of imported waste landing up in municipal landfill sites in India.
Till now the import of hazardous waste was allowed after the environment ministry permitted it. But the ministry has decided to delegate its power to the state pollution control boards after it found monitoring to be an tall task in absence of wherewithal at the ground level.
“All traders will have to register with the state pollution control,” a notification issued by the ministry under the hazardous waste rules said.
The new guidelines notified under Hazardous Wastes (Handling and Transboundary movement) Rules state that before giving permission the pollution boards would have to ensure that the trader has facilities to safely store the imported waste. “They will also have to monitor the use of imported waste by recycling units,” a ministry official said.
“Decentralisation is good,” said Ravi Aggarwal of NGO Toxic Link. “But, my concern is the capacity of the state pollution boards to implement the new rules. At present, they don’t have capacity to enforce their new responsibility.”
What worries environmentalists is a provision in the rules, which allows automatic permission to the trader to import waste, if the pollution boards fail to take a decision on the application within 30 days. “This provision can be misused because of the poor manpower in the state pollution control boards,” Aggarwal said. The new guidelines are being seen as the ministry readying itself for functioning of the National Environment Protection Agency at the national level and its counterpart in the states.