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[greenyes] E-Waste Abroad

Sify News

Bangalore chokes under tons of e-waste

By Jay Shankar in Bangalore
Sunday, 31 October , 2004, 09:10

As IT firms continue to swamp India's technology hub of Bangalore, the city
is starting to choke under a heap of e-waste generated from obsolete
computers and discarded electronic components.

Environmentalists and officials say the waste contains more than 1,000
different toxic substances harmful to human beings and the environment. "If
we do not wake up now, in the next five years it will boomerang on us," said
Bakul Rao, a consultant with the Environment Management and Policy Research
Institute, a research body set up by Karnataka state's Pollution Control
Board. Discuss: Unless the govt wakes up, the whole country will soon choke
with e-waste!

The institute says that next year about 1,000 tonnes of plastics, the same
equivalent of iron, 300 tonnes of lead, 0.23 tonnes of mercury and 43 tonnes
of nickel and 350 tonnes of copper will be generated as e-waste in

"This figure will increase by ten-fold in 2020 when Bangalore will generate
one-third of the state's e-waste," Rao told AFP. "The findings are quite
alarming as there are no regulations and no scientific disposal systems."

Bangalore has more than 500 recyclers of discarded computers and electronic
components. They sell second-hand parts either to computer assemblers in the
grey market or to buyers directly at the weekly Sunday bazaar.

Most then burn the waste, mainly plastics and printed circuit boards, in
illegal dump yards near residential colonies -- releasing toxic and
carcinogenic substances into the air.

The recyclers, most of whom work with their bare hands, also extract
precious metals such as gold and silver using crude chemical processes.
"There is no scientific recycling happening anywhere in Bangalore. Most of
the e-waste, including lead and plastic is dumped along with the municipal
waste and then burned," Rao said.

"Bangalore has more than 100 illegal dump pits for e-waste," she said. The
burning of printed circuit boards at a low temperature leads to the release
of extremely toxic components, which can cause cancer, a report by the
institute said.

Barium found in e-waste, it added, could damage the heart and liver while
other chemicals such as beryllium found in computer motherboards and cadmium
in chip resistors and semiconductors are poisonous and could lead to cancer.

Chromium in floppy disks, lead in batteries and computer monitors and
mercury in alkaline batteries and fluorescent lamps also pose severe health
risks. Other substances such as copper, silver and tin could also be
damaging, the report said.

Almitra Patel, an environmentalist and a member of the Supreme Court
Committee for Solid Waste Management, said unscientific recycling was a part
of the problem but lack of regulations for e-waste and its handling
exacerbated the situation.

"At present the environmental laws in India do not specifically cover the
e-waste regulation. Computers and mobile phones are known culprits but
tubelights and children's toys are others," Patel said.

"Import of e-waste, mainly from the US, under the garb of donations is
adding to our woes. They basically dump obsolete computers in India," she
said. India is a signatory of the Basel Convention On The Transboundary
Movements Of Hazardous Wastes And Their Disposal, which came into force in
1992 and has been ratified by 159 countries.

But the convention allows import of such waste from nations such as the
United States which has not ratified the treaty. Kishore Wankhade, spokesman
for the Toxic Links non-governmental organisation, said India's struggle to
manage e-waste was worrying.

"It will be a total mess within another seven years. The government is
always reactive and not proactive. It works at its own pace. They have woken
up but the response is not quick enough," Wankhade said.


Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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