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India 2012, an e-waste bin

delhi Updated: Mar 19, 2010 00:16 IST
Chetan Chauhan

What a dump, and it is growing by the hour.

Almost 40 per cent of the municipal and plastic waste generated in India is not collected, and half of the organic waste goes untreated.

And then there is the growing problem of electronic waste. By 2012, India will generate the most e-waste in the world, second only to China.

Most cities do not have adequate infrastructure to manage the growing household and plastic rubbish, even though there are technologies available for treatment and reuse.

“There are only 110 facilities in the country for treating hardly 50 per cent of the organic waste generated,” says the environment ministry’s report on Road Map on Management of Waste in India

A committee of the ministry has sought a law for waste-management with punitive action against defaulters. The report call for higher penalty for those failing to properly dispose of municipal garbage.

“Unless the city administrations get serious about waste management, the problem could become a major health risk,” an official, who didn’t wish to be identified, said.

But, it’s the economic growth that poses the biggest challenge — managing e-waste, which can be a discarded refrigerator or end-of-life cellphone or a laptop. By 2012, India will generate over 800,000 million tonne (mt) of e-waste every year.

At present, Mumbai tops the e-waste chart followed by Delhi. Western countries are adding to this mound. The estimate is not known as the ministry believes much of the e–waste is brought in illegally. NGOs such as Toxic Link have raised health concern over US and Europe dumping e-waste in India.

Even though disposing e-waste is defined under Hazardous Waste Management Rules in 2008, most cities don’t have a system to collect and dispose of discarded gadgets.

“Producers should be bound to take back their products after the life of the product is over and to get it recycled/disposed in… without health risks,” says the report released on Thursday.

Poor management of the industry-generated hazardous waste is another worry. Annually 6.2 mt of the waste is generated and 2.1 mt goes untreated. The report talks of 36,000 hazardous waste industries, which include those manufacturing chemicals and plastic.

Indiscriminate disposal has left many places environmentally degraded, says the report.

Seven states — Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu — generate 80 per cent of the country’s hazardous waste.