Study identifies 15 e-waste processing hotspots in Delhi operating without safeguards

That they can operate with such impunity highlights the failure of the system, it says

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 17 October 2019

new study by non-profit Toxics Link has found 15 informal hotspots of electronic waste (e-waste) processing in Delhi to be functioning without any health or environmental safeguards.

New & Old Seelampur (Shahdara), Mustafabad (North East Delhi), Behta Hazipur and Loni (Ghaziabad) are the biggest such informal hotspots in Delhi followed by Turkman Gate, Daryaganj, Shastri Park, Mayapuri, Saeed Nagar, Jafrabad, Mata Sundari Road, Mandoli, Brijpuri and Seemapuri.

Informal e-waste processors were found to be sourcing their waste from a number of stakeholders among which dealers were the single largest source (38 per cent), the study claimed.

It also said that that e-waste from across the country was coming to the processing yards of Delhi most of which were located near the Yamuna river.

These informal units were involved in all kinds of e-waste processing operations including refurbishing, dismantling, metal recycling and recovery.

“Workers operate from shabby and small rooms of residential or unauthorised colonies or open units near agricultural areas and are routinely exposed to chemical and metallic vapour, dusts and acidic effluents. These units have no environmental safeguards and are polluting our air, soil and water,” Priti Mahesh, chief programme coordinator, Toxics Link, said.

Such a poor state of affairs regarding e-waste in Delhi seven years after the first E-waste Management Rules (2011) and  two years after the 2016 E-waste Management Rules highlighted the failure of the system, the study said.

The 2016 Rules and their strict enforcement was supposed to change things on the ground but the study found that processes and material flow remain unchanged.

For example, most of the operations in these units were found to be manual and rudimentary — dismantling or recovering hazardous substances by hammering, open burning or acid leaching still continues. 

Almost all the units ignored health or environment. Hazardous waste and effluents were discharged or dumped in the open within or outside the colony

"They can contain brominated flame retardants, lead, cadmium, mercury, compounds of hexavalent chromium, PVC, all of which have the potential of releasing dioxins and furans. Exposure to them can cause neurotoxicity, reproductive problems, cancer, alteration in hormone functions, bone and kidney damage,” Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link, said.

E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams globally and India generates more than two million tonnes of this toxic waste annually.

Delhi and the National Capital Region generate 85,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste and this is expected to go up to 150,000 metric tonnes (MT) by 2020, according to Assocham. Most of this is and may be dealt by the informal sector

The study called for measures such as integrating formal and informal stakeholders; recognition of the informal sector and strict enforcement of rules by the state regulatory agencies to ensure shifting of hazardous processes out of the informal sector

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