A new emerging problem in the form of e-waste is knocking the doors and it could be a disaster very soon, if not managed and planned properly in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The rapid rise in population and the demand for electronic equipment is increasing relentlessly and the possible management is currently lacking. E-waste has become one of the most pressing issues among other environmental problems like acid rain, stratospheric ozone layer depletion and global warming. Today trans-boundary movement and disposal of e waste are becoming issues of concern to solid waste management professionals, environmentalists, international agencies and governments around the world.
These days the markets are overloaded with electronic products and most of them have relatively short life span and every day one or the other electronic product is being manufactured due to rapid changes in equipment features and capabilities. This results in large waste stream of obsolete electronic equipment. Since electronic equipment are equipped with many metals and other chemicals that if not managed properly will cause adverse impacts on the environment and human health. It is due to the reasons many countries have drafted legislation to improve the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes in order to reduce disposal. India generates about eight lakh tons of e-waste annually, while 151 registered recycling facilities can handle only half of that burden, hence, the rules were also proposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to manage electronic waste. The E-waste (Management) Rules 2016 provide several options to manufacturers such as collection of a refundable deposit and paying for the return of goods to meet the requirements of law. Consumers are naturally keen on recovering economic value from waste, creating a thriving informal recycling sector.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is also keeping pace with advancement in information and communication technology sector. To meet the demands of digital India and the transition phase (Paper to electronic) that has boomed up in recent years, electronic equipment most of them are second hand from nearby States and China add burden to the e waste budget of State. The state of Jammu and Kashmir have neither a well-established system for separation, storage, collection, transportation, and disposal of waste nor the effective enforcement of regulations relating to hazardous waste management.
Since this is not a well regulated process in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, people dealing with this system may get exposed to different health ailments. These health effects may vary depending on the specific chemical contacted, the extent of exposure, the characteristics of the exposed individual, and the metabolism of the chemical involved, weather conditions, and the presence or absence of confounding variables such as other diseases.
Moreover, we are wasting the economically valuable materials that are dumped without recycling. The scarce land resources are being used in landfills to accommodate discarded waste. The reuse, recycle, recovery strategy can reduce the impact on the environment and human health.
There must be a mechanical processing of obsolete computers, photocopiers, telephones, printers, faxes, telex machines, calculators, cell phones and other post-consumer goods in the State. The gold content of a desktop computer is about 0.0016% and yet 1 metric ton of electronic scrap of PC contains more gold than that of 17 tons of gold ore, can be seen as an opportunity by the entrepreneurs. The printed wiring board of electronic scrap, metals, plastics and ceramics can be recovered very easily if processing plants are available. This will provide employment to good chunk of people in the State as well. Other possible advantages of recycling the e-scrap are the possibility of using the plastic as fuel in energy recovery. The energy recovery not only contributes to reduced fossil fuel consumption by the society, but provides an ecologically sound way to manage a significant portion of the plastics from e waste.
There must be a proper effective system for monitoring of shipments, appropriate labeling and certification of the functionality of secondhand appliances in order to reduce the burden. The examples of Thailand can be taken to prevent the secondhand electronic equipment in State. The Implementation of economic policies such as advance recycling fee on new and secondhand electrical and electronic goods will solve the problem to some extent.
In spite of its growing environmental footprint, sound management of electronic waste has received low priority. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has focused on cleaning streets and transferring garbage to landfills, ignoring the legal obligation to segregate and recycle. Electronic waste with all the precious metals and recoverable material are dumped in garbage yards, polluting soil and water. An awareness campaign on e-waste that can be launched by State Pollution Control Board will make it easier to implement the rules, but for that they have to come in the field, reach to people, discuss the strategy and its potential business. Often, consumers do not let go of defunct gadgets, if they will not get its price. They will come on board when the repurchase offer is better than that of the unorganized sector and a collection mechanism is available. The State Government has to come forward to ensure that producers contribute to the e-waste management system that will suit the consumers. The collection centers need to be created almost in every district with well managed chain to cover all the rural areas as well.
(The author is Assistant Professor in Department of Environmental Science, ITM University Gwalior)