Adigital lifestyle in contemporary India may emerge as one of the most lethal hazards for enviro- health sustainability in the near future. The millions of pieces of electronic waste and electrical equipment ranging from personal computers, optical disc players, mobile phones and other portable devices containing toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, brominated flame retardants, and leaching plastics are being dumped on us by the developed world. Most of the electronic goods contain significant quantities of toxic metals and chemicals. If these are left untreated to lie around in landfills or dumps, they cause irreparable loss to life of the soil, water and the atmosphere and its adverse impacts on human health and ecology.
According to the estimates made by the Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) the Indian PC industry is growing at a 25% compounded annual growth rate. The e-waste inventory based on this obsolescence rate and installed base in India for the year 2005 has been estimated to be 146180.00 tonnes. This is expected to exceed 8, 00,000 tonnes by 2012. The National Task Force that he total Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipments (WEEE) generated by the country puts the figure at 150,000 tonnes every year. Greenpeace has found in 2005, in New Delhi alone, as many as 25,000 workers were employed at scrap yards, where 20,000 tonnes of e-waste was being handled in a year. There are surely many more e-waste scrap yards spread across the country that have not been identified. Toxic Link, a New Delhi based organization discovered that 70 percent of electronics waste presents in recycling facilities located in New Delhi. The Basel Action Network (BAN) in a report stating that over five percent of municipal solid waste was comprised of electronic waste.
The discarded electronic waste contains significant quantities of toxic metals and chemicals may generate obvious adverse effects for human health such as blood systems and kidney damages, brain swelling, spleen, adversely effect brain development of children, interfere with regulatory hormones and cause skin diseases besides debilitating health conditions, including cancer, neurological and respiratory disorders, and birth defects. This health impact is worse in developing countries because the people generally dwell in close proximity to dumps or landfills of untreated e-waste One worker in New Delhi said that the pay in e-waste work is good compared to what he could make doing other kinds of labour.According to National Centre for Lead Poisoning believes the harmful levels of lead detected in many blood samples in Banglore are linked unsafe recycling methods, used initially for batteries and more recently, for e-waste.
The international legal regime under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1989 is the most comprehensive and pioneering global environmental treaty on hazardous and other wastes. India being should take necessary measures to ensure that the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes including their transboundary movement and disposal is consistent with the protection of human health and environment. It also recognized that the increasing desire for the prohibition of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal in other States, especially developing countries. The Convention laid down the general obligations of the member States which includes minimum reduction of the generation of hazardous and other wastes and substantial reduction of their transboundary movements. The Convention declares that illegal traffic in hazardous wastes or other wastes is criminal. Furthermore, a signatory State can not ship hazardous waste to any country that has not signed the treaty. A State party to the Convention shall prohibit all persons under its national jurisdiction from transporting and disposing of hazardous wastes or other wastes unless such persons are authorized or allowed to perform such types of operations.
The national legal framework governing environmental issues focus on specific type of pollution and regulation of hazardous substances. These laws generally remain oblivious of inadequacy of linkage in handling of hazardous and e-waste. The Environment Protection Act, 1986 confers an omnibus power to Central Government to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution including measures to lay down standards for the quality of environment, procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances, manufacturing process and materials. The Central Government may also make rules for prohibition and restriction on the handling of hazardous substances prevention of accidents and provides remedial measures. In exercise of powers conferred under Sections 3, 6 and 25 of the EPA, 1986 had codified Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 and Hazardous Waste (Storage Export and Import) Rules, 1989 to regulate the dangerous dimensions of hazardous waste in India. These rules cast a kind of mandatory obligation on the occupier to make an application in Form I to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for grant of authorization to carry the hazardous substances in the form of collection, reception, treatment, transport, storage and disposal of such wastes. In addition to it a task force which includes the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Information and Technology, Industry associations, Non- governmental organizations, to identify, plan and implement all issues related to electronic waste in the country. In pursuance of this the MoEF has started to draft the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Rules began in 2006 as a corollary to the Hazardous Waste Management and Handling Rules, 1989.The time has come now that an overarching law on e-waste should be devised before it turns to be major land fill of e-waste endangering environment and present and future generations of Indians.