A study conducted by an Indian voluntary body working for environmental justice and freedom from toxics has revealed that there are 15 crude e-waste processing hotspots right in the national capital of Delhi without any environmental safeguards.
The study found many authorised dismantlers/recyclers are selling their waste to the informal sector, in complete violation of the rules. Open burning, acid baths, disposal and dumping of hazardous waste and effluents coming out of the process were found to be common in these operations.
"They can contain brominated flame retardants (BFR), lead, cadmium, mercury, compounds of hexavalent chromium, PVC- potential of releasing dioxins and furans. Exposure to them can cause neurotoxicity, reproductive problems, cancer, alteration in hormone functions, bone and kidney damage," stressed Satish Sinha, Associate Director of Toxics Link.
Open and manual dismantling, shredding, burning, leaching and uncontrolled dumping of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment not only directly harm the exposed workers but also reach the environment by contaminating soil, ground water, surface water and polluting air.
Delhi already has several major environmental problems such as air pollution and a water crisis. Added to this is pollution from the unscientific processing of e-waste. Being Asia’s biggest scrap market, Delhi and its adjoining areas are also known as one of the most important e-waste processing zones in the country.
According to the estimates in the report, there are 15 e-waste processing hotspots of about 3,400 units, employing more than 12,300 workers in Delhi. Combined with the region around the national capital, there may be more than 5,000 e-waste processing units directly and indirectly engaging more than 50,000 people.
“Evidently, there is a huge gap between the practices recommended in the rules and guidelines and the practices followed on ground in the informal sector,” the report reads. There has, however, been no response from environmental agencies responsible for the enforcement of the rules.