19 Jan 2021 9:15 AM GMT
The Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently issued directions for the implementation of E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 after observing that there were huge gaps in the compliance by the State Pollution Control Boards and local authorities, breaching their obligation of ensuring pollution free environment. The Tribunal came down heavily on State PCBs after noting...
The Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently issued directions for the implementation of E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 after observing that there were huge gaps in the compliance by the State Pollution Control Boards and local authorities, breaching their obligation of ensuring pollution free environment.
The Tribunal came down heavily on State PCBs after noting that the higher authorities were not adequately concerned about the plight of citizens resulting in serious health issues. The Tribunal also observed that environmental crimes are as serious crimes as cases of assaults.
The directions came after three applications were filed in the NGT seeking remedial action against unscientific disposal of e-waste.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The NGT was dealing with three different cases having a common issue for consideration i.e. "remedial action against unscientific disposal of e-waste" which resulted in contamination of soil and ground water acidification.
The Rules governing collection, storage and processing of the e-waste are implemented under E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016. The said rules are framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
These Rules apply to every manufacturer, producer, consumer, collection centres, dealers etc of e-waste or any electronic equipment or spare parts as listed under Schedule-I. Furthermore, the Rules also provide for their responsibilities, procedure for seeking authorization and storage of e-waste management and the how the use of hazardous substances can be reduced while manufacturing electronic equipments.
The three applications were filed in the NGT for adjudication on the question as to whether there is due enforcement of the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and other procedures such as authorization, collection, dismantling and other formalities related to e-waste management under the Rules?
CASE NO. 1: Shailesh Singh v. State of U.P. & Ors. O.A. No. 512/2018
The matter came before the NGT for the first time focussing on the issue of unauthorized recycling, collection, burning and selling of E-waste and other solid waste on the road side and bank of rivers.
NGT while considering a report titled "What happens to e-waste: Your junked gadgets come back to you as toxic fumes" published in Hindustan Times on 4th June 2018, directed the Ministry of Environment, UPPCB and CPCB to prepare an action plan for ensuring enforcement of e waste and to file a compliance report.
According to the compliance report dated 14th December 2018, it was found that "India produces two million tonnes of e-waste in 2016. The largest e-waste generating cities are Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. 95% of e-waste is recycled by the informal sector and only 5% is recycled by the formal sector."
The NGT after considering the report and action plan directed the CPCB to clearly spell out parameters of compliance and methodology to review by developing appropriate software.
Thereafter, a review performance report was filed in the matter with respect to identification of Producers who have not obtained EPR Authorization, verification of quantity of e-waste and its system providing for its procedures. It was mentioned in the report that software was developed wherein all the State PCBs were given user ID for providing progress.
CASE NO. 2: In Re: News items -The Indian Express - 5,000 illegal e-waste units being run in capital
A report was sought by the Tribunal from Delhi pollution control committee (DPCC), DMs of East and North East Delhi along with UP State PCB and DM, Ghaziabad on allegations that around 5000 illegal e-waste processing units were operating in and around Delhi as per study undertaken by 'Toxic Link'.
Accordingly, a report was filed by DPCC on 19th December 2019 wherein it was informed that around 130 premises were inspected from which 104 were found to be storing e-waste. Thereafter, the committee had taken suo moto action against illegal e-waste handling units which were closed with immediate effect.
On the other hand, the report submitted by UPPCB on 18th February 2020 mentioned that around 315 illegal units were identified since 2019 and action has been taken against such units. The report recommended that a master plan must be made by Ghaziabad Development Authority for taking actions against illegal units and their owners along with mandatory installing of check post in Loni Delhi border for checking vehicles to stop transboundary movement of wires etc.
CASE NO. 3: Mahendra Pandey v. UOI & Ors O.A. NO. 621/2018
The NGT considered the issue of violation of norms for disposal of e-waste at the bank of Ramganga River in UP. A status report was filed by UPPCB which provided that an action plan was prepared by the State for disposal of e-waste and black powder generated be processed in accordance with law.
DIRECTIONS OF THE TRIBUNAL
The Tribunal after considering all the reports in the three matters, observed that:
"There are huge gaps in compliance of rules which are being more held in breach than observance showing the authorities charged with the obligation of ensuring pollution free environment in poor light. There are clear governance deficits on the subject and higher authorities are not adequately concerned about the plight of the citizens on account of such serious violations to the detriment of health of the citizens. Environmental crimes are as serious, if not more, as cases of assaults but there is no adequate action."
The Tribunal also noted that a coordinated approach was required to tackle the menace of e-waste governance. However, the objective could not be fulfilled till the monitoring at higher levels is not done efficiently. According to the bench, it appeared that the "issue of environmental law is not the priority to the authorities".
"Such neglect can prove very costly. For petty benefit of retrieving metals etc., poor labour class is engaged in burning electronic wires or other wastes to the detriment of their own health and also the health of others which is not being duly checked by creating awareness of taking stringent action or preparing other effective policies." The tribunal noted.
After carefully considering the reports on record, the Tribunal issued the following directions:
Order dated: 15.01.2021
Click Here To Download Order