Environmental Issue – e-waste management

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We should be aware of our Earth’s rich biodiversity and also of the harm we are causing to it, through various manmade measures. There are a number of environmental and wildlife issues that need our attention. We are all aware of global warming, highlighted by the recent attempts of the governments as well as various documentaries and movies. But, today we will delve into the details of e-waste management.

On July 14th, 2010 a chlorine gas leak, from an abandoned cylinder at the Mumbai Port Trust warehouse, left 120 people ill and raised the issue of the safe disposal of chemicals, in India. The 141 chlorine cylinders lay abandoned in the warehouse since 1997, without any precautions and safeguards. A tragedy was only waiting to happen. Another very recent case of Cobalt-60 radioactive leak, in a scrap-dealer’s shop in Mayapuri area in Delhi, spread panic. The harmful emissions caused burn injuries and critical health problem to the shop-owner and his three workers. The Cobalt-60 had melted from a lead radiator, which had been sold to a scrap-dealer, by the Chemistry Department of the Delhi University. Carelessness on the part of the Delhi University and lack of awareness of the disposal of harmful radioactive material like Cobalt 60, caused this hazard.

Carelessness in handling chemicals and e-wastes is not new to India. The Bhopal gas leak of 1984, which killed more than 10,000 people, is still causing disability among newborns and contaminating the natural resources of the area, is the deadliest such incident, till now.

One of the major environmental hazards in developing countries, these days, is the disposal of e-waste. While everything in the world has become convenient due to the advancement of technology and the availability of a variety of electronic appliances to make our lives comfortable, these growing numbers of appliances also pose a serious environmental threat to us. The toxic chemicals and pollutants present in e-waste make its improper recycling and disposal a major environmental threat and a health hazard. The Developing countries like India are at greater risk due to  their lack of awareness, on e-waste disposal.

India has faced rapid modernization, in terms of technology (from rickshaw-puller to vegetable vendor, everyone owns a mobile phone) and is fast becoming a giant in the IT sector. In such a scenario, an estimated 1,46,180 tons of e-waste is generated in the country, per year, which is expected to grow at a rate of five hundred percent, in the coming decade. This is because appliances are becoming obsolete at a very fast rate and people prefer to buy new gadgets to be up-to-date with the latest technology, instead of trying to upgrade the existing ones. To add to this, if the sheer amount of e-waste wasn’t enough, there is no proper disposal system or recycling techniques, followed in the country.

Therefore, a considerable amount of effort should be applied to this issue of national and environmental importance. Better management and reuse of e-waste should be facilitated by corporate giants as well as the government sector. This is our mother Earth and only we can take care of her. Do your bit and keep your area clean and as green as possible!

Ankita Rohatgi

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/revgeorge/470195828/]

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