Hazardous E-Wastes

In my kindergarten days, we learnt that the Indian subcontinent undergoes six seasons, with the approximate duration of each being two months. These are as follows: spring, summer, monsoons, early autumn, late autumn & winter. But now summer and winter are the only two seasons that we experience. Infact, last year Delhi did not experience winters and this time the rainy season disappeared. I just wonder what the main concern for this change is. Who is responsible for it?

At once I get my reply, it’s “we” who are polluting the nature, our environment. We are experiencing this change now. Our glaciers are melting fast, the level of pollution is increasing, rivers are getting polluted etc. and all these are directly affecting our lives. I would be talking on e waste in this article. E-waste can be defined as electronic equipments / products that connect with hardware, batteries which have become obsolete and are nearing the end of their useful life. We tend to throw our old products such as computers, servers, main frames, monitors, TVs and do not realize the harmful effect that it is causing the nature.

There is an estimate that the total obsolete computers originating from government offices, business houses, industries and household is of the order of 2 million . Manufactures and assemblers in a single calendar year, estimated to produce around 1200 tons of electronic scrap. Also, we find it convenient to buy a new computer rather than upgrade the old one due to the changing configuration, technology and the attractive offers of the manufacturers. This disposal of e- waste mostly ends up in landfills or partly recycled in an unhygienic conditions and partly thrown into waste streams. The use of technology has worsened the condition. Computer waste is generated from the individual households; the government, public and private sectors; computer retailers; manufacturers; foreign embassies; secondary markets of old PCs.

E-waste is one of the rapidly growing environmental problems of the world. In India, it assumes greater significance not only due to the generation of our own waste but also dumping of e-waste particularly computer waste from the developed countries.
The extensive use of computers and electronic equipments and people dumping old electronic goods for new ones, is increasing the amount of e-waste generated.

The hazardous substances found in the e-waste include substantial quantities of lead, cadmium, chromium and flame-retardant plastics. Cathode ray tubes in our TV’s and components with high lead content are considered dangerous to health. Inhaling or handling such substances and being in contact with them on a regular basis can damage the brain, nervous system, lungs, kidneys and the reproductive system . In present day, the maximum numbers of asthmatic patients are among the youth. The direct effect of this behaviour of ours could be seen. In chemical or manufacturing sites due to lack of awareness, workers or labourers are risking their health and environment as well.

So people should now realise this and take steps to this dangerous call. There is an urgent need for improvement in e-waste management consisting technological improvement, institutional arrangement, operational plan, protective environment for workers working in e-waste disposal and last but not the least education of general population about this emerging issue posing a threat to the environment as well as public health. Our old products like computers, printers, digital cameras that we do not wish to use could be given to rural schools so that the young people there could use it for skill enhancement. The society should also take ownership of the city and clean it up with the encouragement and support from the government.

Being in Delhi, each time when I pass through the Yamuna bridge, the view is pathetic. The factory wastes, wastes from the slums all accumulate in the river making it a victim of our actions. Some steps should be taken like developing of environmentally sound recycling facilities in India, collection and recycling of these e- wastes without causing any harm. It is very important to create awareness among the mass and educating them about their actions and its ill- effects. The societies will then gradually rise and it will save our environment “Making it a Better Place to Live .

Doel Rout

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/techbirmingham/345897594/]