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E-waste menace plagues Bengal

KOLKATA, 11 AUG: The Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA) generates 26,000 tons of potential e-waste annually out of which only 2,000 tons is being recycled, stated the report on E-waste Inventorisation in KMA released by Dr Juergen Bischoff, director of GTZ-ASEM at the state pollution control board auditorium today.
The GTZ-ASEM is a joint programme of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Union ministry of environment and forests. The Central and state pollution control board, Indian Chamber of Commerce and GTZ, supported the study. The Business and Industrial Research Division of IMRB International did the research. The report also projected that e-waste generation is likely to increase to 1,44,823 tons by the year 2020.
Mr PN Roy, chairman, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) said, “E-waste has become a major challenge. The report was a part of the first phase of the programme aimed to tackle the menace. The second phase would involve legal handling of the waste.”
There is currently no e-waste recycling unit in the state. Mr Roy also said that unorganized e-waste recycling units operate out of scattered areas in Kolkata and Howrah and unless the people working at these places are skilled in the recycling process, unorganised operations would continue. He stressed on the fact that there should be no loss of livelihood due to effective handling of e-waste.
Mr Siddhartha, principal secretary, state IT department said that they are working with the WBPCB in the second phase of the programme. “The IT department will provide whatever scientific and technological help is needed in setting up e-waste recycling units in the state,” he added.
Currently, most of the e-waste finds its way to unauthorized scrap dealers and finally to the backyard processors that are engaged in dismantling these wastes and extracting recoverable materials such as copper, lead, gold, iron, aluminium and plastic in by crude methods. The remaining waste invariably ends up in the municipal dumps and the inherent toxins seep into the ground water. The open burning of such waste results in the emission of highly toxic air pollutants that have an adverse effect on human health. Dr Ashish Chaturvedi, technical manager, GTZ-ASEM said that they had conducted a study on detrimental effects of e-waste handling among the workers in the unorganized sector and it was found that they had high concentration of toxic heavy metals in their body.
Dr Dipak Chakroborty, chief scientist of WBPCB said, “It is a requirement that electronic product producers should adopt EPR (extended producer responsibility) and corporate social responsibility, so that e-waste could be handled in an effective way.” He said that ‘polluter pay principle’ is the need of the hour.

Soma Basu

Soma Basu

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