Saturday, August 23, 2008

THE HINDU LIFTS THE LID ON BANGALORE E-WASTE

August 23 2008

HEALTH HAZARD: IT companies are under no obligation to manage their waste because there is no legislation.

Bangalore: Bangalore’s innumerable IT (information technology) and related companies produce 11,000 tonnes of e-waste every year. But most of this finds its way to backyard recyclers in the by-lanes of Bangalore — and very little goes to the authorised e-waste managers who are competent to neutralise the waste.

Bangalore has three recyclers recognised by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. But, “sadly, IT companies are under no obligation to manage their waste because India does not have legislation for e-waste,” said P. Parthasarathy, Director, E-Parisara Pvt. Ltd., one of the three authorised recyclers.

Of the 1,350 IT, BPO (business process outsourcing) and KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) companies in Bangalore, only around 50 have come forward to manage their waste through E-Parisara.

Many of the others prefer to sell their e-waste to the “highest bidder” from unauthorised e-waste traders as they offer a better deal, said Mr. Parthasarathy who was speaking here on Friday at a meeting on “Alternate energy and environment” organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.

The Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) “Guidelines for environmentally sound management of e-waste” was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in March 2008, but as they are only guidelines, they do not bind companies to manage their waste, he said.
Ranks third

According to the CPCB guidelines, Bangalore ranks third among the top 10 cities that generate e-waste in the country.

Mumbai ranks first, followed by Delhi. These guidelines were prepared as no specific environmental laws exist for e-waste and “none of the existing environmental laws have any direct reference to electronic waste or refer to its handling as hazardous in nature.”

As a result, E-Parisara’s 1.5 acre unit in Dobbspet, which has the capacity to recycle three tonnes of e-waste every day and hopes to achieve a 10-tonne capacity in five years, is “struggling to break even”, said Mr. Parthasarathy. “We are not receiving an adequate amount of e-waste. We need more companies to cooperate,” he said.

Bangalore’s e-waste comprises computer monitors, keyboards, CDs, mobile phones, fluorescent tubes and medical devices. “Electronic equipment are being discarded at a greater rate than ever before because of advances in technology, changes in fashion and machinery reaching the end of their lifespan,” he said.

Lead, mercury and arsenic are only some of the deadly compounds that e-waste can release, each of which can result in serious health hazards. They are carcinogenic and can affect immunity and the reproductive system.
Institutions

As for the public sector, while institutions such as BHEL, Bharat Electronics Ltd., the Indian Institute of Science and the Bangalore Institute of Technology give their e-waste to E-Parisara on a regular basis, several other government institutions do not do so.

“For instance, no one has any idea what government departments of Telecom, Railways, Civil Aviation, and Defence — all of which rely on electronic equipment — are doing with their e-waste. They are most likely going to backyard recyclers or informal sector traders,” Mr. Parthasarathy said.

There is pressure on Ministry of Environment and Forests from non-government organisations, recyclers and the industry to come up with legislation to make e-waste management mandatory for all companies that produce it, he said.