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Customs initiative to curb e-waste import
July, 25th 2011

A huge quantity of electronic waste (e-waste) being imported and dumped into the country is posing a serious threat to our environment. Referring to this, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) recently issued a circular asking senior customs authorities across the country to avoid clearing such material, if not accompanied by permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The circular also specifies that the import of used computers too would require prior permission from the environment ministry.

Though the circular does not mention the quantity of e-waste imported in the country, customs officials said that on average, it is estimated to be more than 50,000 metric tonnes per annum.

"It is reported to the Board (CBEC) that e-waste such as used computers, CRT (cathode ray tubes), RAM (random access memory) and electrical and electronic assemblies are being dumped into the country, posing a serious threat to our environment," the circular said.

The circular further said that the import and export of hazardous waste is regulated by the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008, which states that import of such wastes shall be allowed only for recycling, or recovery or reuse and not for disposal.

The circular adds that the Board consulted the environment ministry, which confirmed that import of e-wastes, including used computers would require prior consent of the ministry.

The circular has asked customs authorities to strictly implement the provisions of the Act.

The circular also stated that contravening imports would be treated as illegal traffic, requiring the importer to re-export the wastes at his cost within 90 days from the date of arrival.

"We must ensure that India does not become a destination for dumping junk electronic products," the circular said.

Reacting to the circular, a senior customs official in Mumbai said that now the e-waste consignments would not be allowed to enter if they do not have a valid permit from the environment ministry.

He said that earlier authorities were to some extent strict with other e-wastes, but computers were allowed easily.

"Used computers are mostly imported from western countries for the purpose of donations to orphanages, educational and charitable institutions," the official added.

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