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[GreenYes] Press Release: Are Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Materials Synonymous?

Press Release

Are Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Materials Synonymous?

No, said Supreme Court and Basel Convention. Yes, says Ministry of Environment & Forests

Proposed Hazardous Rules makes India least resistant to global waste flow

New Delhi 17/11/2007: Startled by the proposed Draft Hazardous Materials (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2007 of Ministry of Environment & Forests currently headed by the Prime Minister, environment and public health researchers and activists have termed it as a gross act of linguistic corruption to satiate hazardous waste traders' naked lust for profit.

The Draft Rules (available at ) propose to redefine "hazardous waste" as "hazardous material", contrary to the definition provided by the Supreme Court and UN's Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted in Basel, Switzerland on 22 March 1989 and entered into force on 5 May 1992 with its Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.

India is party to this Convention. (

As per a notification signed by R.K.Vaish, Joint Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Ministry of Environment & Forests and dated 28 September 2007, the Ministry has announced its motive to amend the existing Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 that too has been amended from time to time imposed restrictions and prescribed procedures for management, handling and disposal of hazardous wastes as per Supreme Court's directions. The notification says, "after expiry of a period of sixty days form the date of publication of this notification in the Official Gazette; The objections or suggestions which may be received from any person in respect of the said draft rules before the period specified will be taken into consideration by the Central Government. Any person desirous of making any objection or suggestion with respect to the said draft rules may forward the same within the period so specified to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Paryavaran Bhawan, Central Government Offices Complex, New Delhi-110003."

In manifest contempt of court's directions, the proposed Rules entails exempting the transit countries from providing prior informed consent for all shipments of hazardous waste to India. What is baffling is that the proposal states that as long as a material contains less than 60% contamination by a hazardous constituent, then it is eco-friendly and safe for our ecology. Waste asbestos imports are banned unless they are embedded in the structure.  The proposed Rules are a product of those Development fundamentalists who advocate "Economic Growth at any cost"-by poisoning and polluting human body, wildlife and environment- due to the dictates of unbridled market forces and trade.

The apex court in its landmark judgement made the position unambiguously clear. It says, "Hazardous Wastes are highly toxic in nature. The industrialization has had the effect of generation of huge quantities of hazardous wastes.  These and other side effects of development gave birth to principles of sustainable development so as to sustain industrial growth.  The hazardous waste required adequate and proper control and handling.  Efforts are required to be made to minimise it.  In developing nations, there are additional problems including that of dumping of hazardous waste on their lands by some of the nations where cost of destruction of such waste is felt very heavy.  These and other allied problems gave birth to Basel Convention.  The key objectives of the Basel Convention are: " to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness; to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible; to reduce the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes."

The court further noted, "?the hazardous wastes situation in India is fairly grim. Hazardous wastes, found dumped in the open environment have been the cause of widespread pollution of ground water, creating drought-like situations in areas traditionally not lacking in water suppliers.  Public hearings conducted by the High Power Committee on Hazardous Wastes (HPC) in several cities brought forward pleas and representations of distress from affected victims and harsh complaints about lack of response from statutory authorities.  The authorities appear to have ignored several warnings, reports, investigations and studies that highlighted zones of ecological degradation due to indiscriminate dumping and disposal of hazardous wastes.  The High Power Committee on Hazardous Wastes noted that there was a lack of policy and vision at the highest level. This has resulted in a very poor management system. This situation cannot be allowed to continue."

In effect, the proposed Rules is a formal announcement of globalization of the toxic chemical crisis. The co-opted silence and self-serving lip-service of a section of environmental outfits who swear by environmental justice is starkly evident.  As long as there is corporate funding to political parties such unjust and barbaric acts of quid pro quo will always be attempted.

It creates a unique moment for all the environment, public health, human rights and civil rights institutions, academicians, activists, NGOs and trade unions to join hands in opposition to toxic trade in toxic wastes, toxic products and toxic technologies, that are sought to be exported from rich countries to India and to resist a similar trend within the country as well.

There is no alternative to corporate accountability; waste management through clean production and reduction in the use of toxics chemicals through life cycle assessment, precautionary principle, eco-design, extended producers' responsibility and polluter pays principle bu the same is sought to be undermined by the proposed Rules.

For Details Contact: toxicswatch@no.address

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