Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
State inaction, public protests block facilities
Lax laws are only part of the problem. India does not have enough treatment facilities for the hazardous waste it generates 4.9 million tonnes a year. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, industrial units have been told to store the waste on their premises because the state does not have a single common treatment facility, even though waste generation there is close to 200,000 tonnes per annum.
In 2003, the supreme court told the states to prepare an inventory of their hazardous waste and set up their own tsdfs. It observed that of the 30 sites chosen for setting up tsdfs, facilities had come up at only 11 sites in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The court committee set December 31, 2007, as the deadline for states to comply with its order.
States have missed the deadline. In fact, they did not even chase it.Most tsdfs are under construction and in some cases the work is yet to begin. In Uttar Pradesh, for example, five tsdfs were proposed but no work has started on any of them. In Delhi, a site was identified, but no work has begun.
A report submitted by scmc members Boralkar and Claude Alvares in March 2007 points out that though 24 states have submitted the inventory of their hazardous waste to the cpcb, they have not put it up on their websites. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are the exceptions. Jharkhand and Nagaland have not submitted their inventory, while six state pollution control boards/committees claim there is no hazardous waste in their states.
Why are states dragging their feet on tsdfs? The fact is people do not trust the government on its promise of safe disposal. They do not want a hazardous-waste-disposal facility in their backyard. In Dabaspet near Bangalore, where a private company, Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd, is constructing a tsdf, people led by Karnataka's former environment minister Chanigappa came out in protest. They dismantled the sheds installed by the company.
Residents of Gummidipoondi village in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu have waged a long battle against the tsdf there. The Madras High Court had to stay its construction once. The case is in the supreme court. "The construction has almost finished. We went to court in April when it had just begun because they did not take permission from the panchayat, which is illegal. In the wake of the Blue Lady (the French ship sent for scrapping at Alang) controversy, all matters have been delayed. In another month, they will start dumping hazardous waste there, so no court ruling will make a difference then," says Nityanand Jayaraman of Community Area Monitors, a Chennai-based environmental ngo. Work on a disposal facility at Ghumenhera in Delhi was also stopped after public protests.
Even in places where tsdfs are functioning, industrial units shy away from sending their waste to the facilities. "Much of the hazardous waste generated in states does not find its way to secured landfill sites on which huge investments have been made, but is still being discharged clandestinely and illegally into the natural environment," states the scmc report. Andhra Pradesh has the highest number of such dump sites--40 and all of them around Hyderabad (see table Waste account).
The problem persists because of high disposal costs.
"The cost of treatment of one tonne of waste ranges between Rs 800 and Rs 1,200, so it is easier to give it for Rs 500 to smugglers who earn on it by selling barrels," says Boralkar, who was a member-secretary of the Maharashtra pcb. The huge expense of incineration also discourages industries from using the option. "Incineration costs Rs 11,000 per tonne, and it is not economical to have an incineration facility if there is not enough waste for its optimum utilization," he adds.
The cost of treatment depends on factors like the cost of land and the extent of precautions taken by the tsdfs. "Sometimes the landfill has to be above the ground because of the high level of water table--like in Vapi in Gujarat--which hikes up the rates," says P N Parameshwaran, the vice-president of Bharuch Enviro Infrastructures Ltd, which has built several tsdfs. A part of the waste-treatment cost also goes to the funds tsdf s maintain for restoring the landfill site once it is closed. Though states allow incinerable waste to be brought in from across its border, it is at an extra cost. "In Gujarat, all tsdfs run optimally because there is a lot of waste to be disposed of, but facilities that get less waste, charge more. At Ankeleshwar, we charge Rs 550 per tonne for 'landfilling' but incineration is expensive," adds Parameshwaran. More waste will only mean less cost.