MAC: Mines and Communities

India's Booming Economy Brings Toxic Hi-tech Waste

Published by MAC on 2007-02-26
Source: PlanetArk INDIA - REUTERS NEWS SERVICE ()

India's Booming Economy Brings Toxic Hi-Tech Waste

PlanetArk INDIA

26th February 2007

NEW DELHI - India's booming economy is producing mountains of toxic electronic waste like discarded computers and televisions, but there are no laws to regulate its disposal, a local environment group said on Friday.

Toxics Link said while the Asian giant's economy has been growing at eight percent annually over the last three years, it has also resulted in the generation of 150,000 tonnes of electronic waste each year.

An eight-month study by the group found that India's bustling financial hub of Mumbai was the biggest source of electronic or e-waste, generating 19,000 tonnes every year.

"Being the hub of India's commercial activities, the banks and financial institutions in Mumbai generate huge amounts of e-waste," Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, told a news conference. "But like the rest of India, there are no laws for its safe handling and this will lead to serious health and environmental impacts."

Agarwal said the government had to regulate the management of e-waste by setting up a central authority to collect all discarded electronic goods and put in place laws to deal with disposal and recycling.

India's economic liberalisation that began in the early 1990s has seen hundreds of banks, financial institutions, electronics industries, information technology firms and call centres setting up operations across the country.

The booming economy has also led to a growing middle class -- estimated around 300 million -- which has more disposable income and an insatiable appetite for electronic products.

"When electronics like televisions, PCs and refrigerators are discarded, it is the informal sector made up of tens of thousands of people who collect it and then break it down and recycle parts of it which can be sold," said Agarwal.

"They extract toxic-heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium which are sold for other uses."

These metals harm the development of the brain, kidneys and some are carcinogens which enter the food chain through the air, water and soil.

Story by Nita Bhalla

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

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