Here to stay

The Supreme Court stays the auction of toxic wastes

Published: Saturday 28 February 1998

with only a fortnight to go before the issue of importing toxic recyclable wastes is settled at Malaysia, the Supreme Court (sc) has restrained customs officials from auctioning imported wastes at the Tughlakabad inland container depot near Delhi and the Mumbai port. These wastes have been with the customs department for several months, since the Apex court had been approached by a public interest group to put an end to unregulated import of toxic wastes.

The sc order came at the end of the first week of February, when an expert committee, headed by M G K Menon, submitted its interim report on the amount and nature of toxic wastes imported purportedly for recycling. The committee had been set up at the instance of the sc four months ago. The Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science had filed a public interest litigation in 1995.

The issue of international trade in toxic wastes for dumping as well as recycling is governed by the Basel Con-vention, to which India is a signatory. The Convention seeks to put an end to trade in hazardous waste, by defining which substances were to be considered toxic and which were safe for trade. The Conference of Parties iv (cop iv) is due to be held at Kuching, Malaysia, in the third week of February. At cop iv , the signatories and those nations who have ratified the ban will meet to decide on the list of substances that would be banned from trade. Saifuddin Soz, minister for environment and forests (mef) told Down To Earth : "India will stand by its decision and abide by the ruling of the Basel Convention". "The items that are to be banned from trade shall not enter Indian territory," he said.

The M G K Menon committee, consisting of Menon, Paritosh Tyagi, former chairperson of Central Pollution Control Board, P K Seth, director of the Industrial Toxicological Research Centre, K R Ranganathan of Anna University and Claude Alvares of the Goa Foundation, has the following terms of reference:

l Recommend on whether or to what extent the hazardous wastes listed by the Basel Convention have been banned by the Indian government and which other wastes need to be banned;

l To verify the status of units importing wastes for recycling;

l Changes required in present laws to ensure that hazardous wastes do not enter the country;

l Further steps required in this direction.

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