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India’s e-Waste Mountain

By: Richard Tj, 21 October 2009

e-waste dumped in IndiaA study by the Indian government has found that the amount of electronic waste in the country is growing 10 per cent every year, and 95 per cent- or 434 thousand tons- of it will end up in urban slums, particularly in the region of New Delhi and Mumbai, where large population centers are able to facilitate the labour needed to deal with it. The investigation by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research estimates that 25,000 people in India’s slums are employed in an unregulated e-waste recycling industry, with just five per cent of waste going through official channels.


Whilst the report issued by the DSIR indicates that much of the waste is generated domestically by India’s booming IT sector, Greenpeace indicated earlier this year that much of the World’s e-Waste arrives in developing Countries including India via Gray Markets.


No Management System:


The key issue in india, as highlighted by the Electronics Industry Association, is that the Country’s recycling industry has to first catch up.

The industry remains unprepared for e-waste management and consequently, the sector is not regulated properly and lacks the necessary infrastructure. As stated by the DSIR in their report: "there are no rules or laws in place for e-waste management, nor recycling facilities designed to protect workers and the environment."


The Indian state of Maharashtra said in December 2009 that it planned to crack down on e-waste by penning new regulations to address the problem in cities such as Mumbai and Pune, which produce some 28,000 metric tons of electronic waste annually.

According to a study in 2007 by Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute, only two cities in the country – Delhi and Bangalore – have effective e-waste management systems in place.


Electronics Industry Association secretary general Rajoo Goel said: "The industry needs advanced e-waste recycling facilities which do not pose a threat to both workers and to the environment. This can be made possible with the enactment of existing e-waste guidelines into legislation."


Key Issues:

Burning of e-waste in Mumbai, India

A paper written by Sanjay Prasad highlights key issues with e-waste as being those associated with either untreated final disposal- i.e. dumping or Burning. The results of such disposal methods can be surmised as follows:


  • The crushing of CRT monitors, releasing the constituent components into Ground water and Drinking Water. These include: Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Phosphor.
  • Mercury Switches and Flat screen monitors dumped in landfill release Mercury Direct into Ground Water.
  • Flame retardants (Brominated Flame Retardants and Antinomy Oxide) and Lead solder all contained on Printed Circuit Boards is released directly into the Ground.
  • Burning of Wires, cables and other electronics, Immediately releasing large quantities of Arsenic, Dioxins and Furons into the local atmosphere.
  • e-waste dumped near groundwater, in IndiaJust as Milliners coined the term "mad as a hatter" due to their long term exposure to Mercury Salts whilst curing pelts for hats, extensive damage and health issues are being inflicted upon local indigenous populations in India as a result of treating e-wastes. Burning of Circuit Boards results in the immediate release of Cadmium and Mercury into the atmosphere, both of which have a near immediate and long term impact upon the Brain and Central nervous system. The damage is permanent and the "heavy metal poisoning" will result in other long term health issues including liver and kidney damage and a shortened life span.

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