Need to strengthen hazardous waste management rules: Govt

Need to strengthen hazardous waste management rules: Govt

Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour, "...We need to ensure better coordination with the customs authorities which we are attempting. We also need to ensure that our trade policy does not allow the free import of wastes." To a question whether India's ports are equipped enough to check the hazardous materials supposed to be imported, the Minister said, "...the honest answer is no.

"I have written to the Finance Minister very recently that we need to have a joint mechanism between the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Ministry of Finance so that the customs department becomes much more sensitive to this area," he said. The Minister hoped that procedures at the ports are tightened up to bring about a greater control on the import of hazardous waste.

He, however, mentioned that the responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the rules lies primarily with the State Pollution Control Boards. On the recent incident of radiation in Mayapuri scrap market in the national capital, he said the Hazardous Waste Management Rules cover only the bio-medical wastes, hazardous wastes and e-wastes. It does not cover radio-active wastes which fall under the Atomic Energy Act.

He informed the House that India generates roughly six million tonnes of hazardous waste per year, of which about 50 per cent goes in for re-cycling. There are 25 treatment, storage and disposal facilities across the country and eight more are in the pipeline. "Considering the importance that e-waste is assuming importance in our country, we have come up with a separate set of e-waste rules and these will be notified very shortly," he said.

Ramesh assured the House that as far as hazardous waste is concerned, the Central Government will not shirk its responsibility and come up with strictest possible rules. "But I want to say that framing the rules is only one side of the equation. The implementation and monitoring of these rules, in a country like ours, is the responsibility of the state and local authorities.

"I am not shirking the responsibility. I am prepared to take action on our own and I have instructed the Central Pollution Control Board to go ahead and take action where there is a clear violation of the hazardous waste management rules," he said. But, he pointed out, if the government takes tough action, there will be representations from the states "to go slow or not be very tough because we are providing lakhs and lakhs of employment opportunities to people.

"I agree, this is not good employment that we are providing. Just because we are providing employment does not mean we should keep open Mayapuri type facilities that we saw recently leading to radioactive contamination. We should be strict in this regard," he said.

The Minister said he has written to the Minister of Commerce to ensure that if hazardous waste import is on Open General Licence (OGL), free import of hazardous waste should not be allowed. Import of hazardous waste should be done only as per the Hazardous Waste Management Rules 2008, he added.

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