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Electronic waste may be defined as discarded computers, lap tops, electronic musical instrument , cell phones, cameras, tape recorders, pen drives, floppies, compact discs, television boxes, calculators, photocopy machines, wrist watches, printing machines, batteries etc., The problem is global and the electronic waste is accumulating so fast hampering the respiration of our earth.

During the fag end of the last century, the factories manufacturing electronic products have grown very fast, aiming their sales to the prospective consumers.

As per the current statistics it is predicted that the electronic waste will be reaching in 500% increase within next ten years. Now the electronic waste is generated to 4 lack metric ton per annum. It is feared to be doubled in the forth coming years. In Bangalore alone 8000 metric ton e-waste is dumped in open grounds.

However the reasons may vary, the important reason for e-waste is due to the heavy import of cheap products from china, Thailand and Korea. Because of such cheap priced electronic product’s life time are short lived, it become e-waste with in a shortest span of time.

Even recycling the e waste poses several health and environmental problems. The people are subject to several health hazards like cancer, nerve disorder, vision problem and severe respiratory disorders. Our mother earth is dying slowly, suffocating to breath.

All electronic scrap components, such as CRT may contain contaminants such as Lead, Cadmium, Beryllium, or brominated flame retardants. Mercury in the e-waste will induce mind disorder and weaken the nerve system slowly. Both human beings and animals are affected due to reproductive disorders and life threatening deceases. The Sulfa contents in such e waste will affect heart, liver, eye, throat, lungs and completely the nerve system.

E waste is dumped in large quantities especially in metros like New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. Even the Ganges does not escape from the brunt of e waste problem. When others are polluting the river’s sanctify by throwing dead, on the other side the e waste is spreading its octopus tentacles to worsen its plight further.

The atmosphere is polluted when burning out such waste. The scarce ground water is polluted equally. Because of this non compostable nature it stays in the ground for years without decaying, throttling the life line of our earth. Adding fuel to the fire, the import of e waste will handicap our effort in disposing the fast mounting accumulation in due course. To make this statement very simple just by throwing an exhausted battery the chemical content will stealthily seep down to the earth polluting our scarce ground water contents. The Copper contents in the computer and such other electronic product emanates the poisonous product called Dioxin which will spoil the atmosphere endangering the survival of plants, animal and human beings. In the year 2005 the EU passed an exclusive resolution emphasizing to collect and recycle such e waste and the total cost of disposal thereon to be exclusively borne by the respective manufacturing units itself and it is strictly banned never to export such e waste to any countries here after.

The USA stands first in its place in generating e waste in the world comprising of 80% of wastage. Every year it dumps not less than 3 million metric ton of e waste. Annually this country produces 30 million computers.

There is a general convention that e waste management to be done in their respective country itself. The American countries seldom heed this advice. It is generally accepted logic that those countries manufacturing computer software will generate more e waste. Some exporters are accused of deliberately leaving difficult-to-recycle, obsolete or non-repairable equipment mixed in loads of working equipments. America is well aware of this serious impact of the e waste, exporting this to Asian/African countries against the convention. And also it is exporting the worn out computers and electronic appliances to NGO, charitable and educational institution in the name of charity.  One must understand the American’s intention in not signing Basel Agreement.

e-wasteEach computer has more than 1000 spare parts. Out of this 50 products are deadly and toxin. From the worn out computers the toxin starts emanating without our knowledge polluting the atmosphere.

During a routine check up at the Chennai custom they have unearthed e waste of used and worn out computers in several containers at the port. They are being exported from several countries like Australia, Canada, Korea, Brune circumventing the rules and flouting the regulations imposed.

The e wastes are dumped along the Indians coast especially in Tamil Nadu cost lines. The advanced countries are treating India as their dump yards of e waste. The e waste can be better monitored and controlled only by way of establishing a cartel between the manufacturers, exporters and those who indulge in the process of recycling the e waste.

All the electronics items are subject to excise and local tax that varies from product to product, for computers between 3.94% to 5.95%, for cell phone  3.4% to 5% , for television between 3.4% to 5%. Surprisingly no company came forward with any scheme to monitor the e waste management so far.   

New Delhi alone has employed 30000 people in recycling the electronic waste without any modern machinery, tools or equipments but all with help of small chisels, hammers and  screw drivers, that too by engaging women and children to do such hazardous job. Unhygienic environment without any safety gadgets the employees are facing serious health problems like scabies, burn injury, vision problems, occupational diseases like respiratory and digestive disorders. Heavy acids are used to extract minerals in the waste resulting skin diseases. Even in developed countries recycling and disposal of e waste may involve significant risk to workers and communities and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaking of materials such as heavy metals from landfills and incinerator ashes.

The awareness campaign must be convened under the head of State and central governments, corporations and municipalities, the planners and executors must join hand to hand to recycle e waste. They must take sufficient precautionary measures in controlling the e waste and its treatment. Necessary amendment in the law should be enacted and the existing laws to be redefined.

It must be made mandatory to obtain clearance from Central Forestry department, Regional and central Pollution control Boards and the department of environmental safety while importing e waste from other countries. The recycling process should be monitored and controlled by Central Pollution Control Boards. Necessary subsidy should be granted to such deserving recycling methods and undertakings. In order to manage the e waste, State and Central Action Committee must be established and strict rules must be implemented. Those employed in disposing and recycling e waste must be trained and periodical camp must be conducted to create necessary awareness to their safety measures.

The coast vigilance must be tightened to check unauthorized smuggling of e waste. The manufacturers should give their consent to take the full responsibilities in the process of recycling. Those who dump the waste must be severely punished with penalty. The process of dismantling and disposing of electronic waste in the third world, lead to a number of environmental impacts. Liquid and atmospheric releases end up in poisoning Ground water, soil and air and therefore the animals both domesticated and wild being poisoned, and also in crops eaten by both animals and human being affected. Necessary steps must  be taken in order to reduce the toxic contents like Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium in the process of manufacturing electronic products by the manufacturers. The consumers should be encouraged to exchange the worn out electronic products in the course of buying new one so that the waste can be easily pooled to one central place. The Central government ban on importing second hand electronic products dated 13.5.2010 must be followed strictly while any imports by educational institutions, libraries, trusts and social welfare organizations. Like the one in Bangalore, the recycling plants/incinerators must be commissioned in all the places throughout in India.

Any such exhibition conducted to market the electronic products must be governed and the license procedures must be made very strict. Necessary Law must be introduced encouraging the welfare of the workers in such industries both from the manufacturing level to recycling.

Unless we take corrective measures in time, we cannot protect our mother earth. The disposal mechanism of e waste must be scientifically planned and it must be honored with suitable awards annually. Since it is a perennial problem, constant monitoring must be exercised to find alternative solutions where ever necessary. We alone can show our grand children the new horizon where we leave our needs to the nature again and let the nature guide us clasping our hands with the same care and love. 

Written by Dhayalan

Translated by Prema Prabha

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