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Health Impact of Hazardous Waste Trade Under Scanner

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 2:39 AM


UN Conference on Hazardous Wastes concerned about emergence of new waste streams


Bali: The ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal commenced on Monday 23 June, 2008. The Convention was initiated in response to numerous international scandals regarding hazardous waste trafficking that began to occur in the late 1980s and continues till today.

Review of the implementation of decisions adopted at COP9 included discussions on a recommendation of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) to establish a new Basel Convention Regional and Coordinating Centre (BCRC) in South Asia. This has been proposed by India at COP3 and COP6.

The Secretariat introduced the documents on ship dismantling: Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of ship dismantling (UNEP/CHW.9/34); report of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (UNEP/CHW/INF/28); compilation of comments on the ESM of ship dismantling (UNEP/CHW/ INF/29); and a document submitted by the Basel Secretariat to the MEPC (UNEP/CHW/INF/30).

Delegates elected Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra, State Minister for the Environment (Indonesia), as COP9 President by acclamation. He underscored the theme of the conference "Waste Management for Human Health and Livelihood," noting the impacts of hazardous waste on people and nature. He said the illegal traffic of hazardous waste showed no sign of decreasing and the generation of such waste was increasing.

Environmental groups demanded that remediation of beaches of their toxic contamination in India and Bangladesh where ship-breaking activity takes place is a pressing need to retrieve and protect the fragile coastal environmental and public health of communities and their livelihoods.

Environmental groups sought establishment of level of control equivalent to that of the Basel Convention. The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Basel Action Network and the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association expressed concern that the proposed IMO convention would not have the same level of control. A contact group that was established to discuss the draft decision on ship dismantling did include equivalent level of control in its document.

In her statement to COP 9, Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention too reiterated "to the IMO the importance of ensuring that the new ship recycling Convention provides an equivalent level of control as that established under Basel Convention. The final negotiations International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, under the auspices of IMO will take place in October 2008, prior to its adoption by the Diplomatic Conference in May 2009.
Peiry stressed better Coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. She hoped that COP9 would place the Basel Convention firmly on the international agenda and reaffirm its implementation as a prerequisite to sustainable development.Other important issues being delibereted include Basel Ban Amendment that was adopted in 1995, the interpretation of Article 17(5) of the Basel Convention and the entry into force of the Ban Amendment, the final adoption of the guidelines of the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative and Technical Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Mercury Wastes and used tyres.

US is the only developed nation that has failed to ratify the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal that was adopted in Basel, Switzerland in 1989. The Convention entered into force on 5 May 1992.

India has ratified it but the ongoing illegal traffic of the hazardous ships underlines that it is not implementing the treaty. The Convention was at first condemned by environmentalists and developing countries as it failed to ban hazardous waste exports to any location other than Antarctica.

Till recently developing countries and environmentalists succeeded within the Convention in achieving a decision to ban hazardous waste exports from the wealthiest to less wealthy countries.

But with India and US not having ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which forbids outright the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, the Basel Convention is struggling to appear prtogressive. At a crucial meeting here Sri Lanka and Thailand in some ways saved the Basel Ban Amendment, which was sought to be made impotent by Japan, UK and India.

The conference would conclude on 27th June, 2008. The conference on Hazardous Wastes concerned about emergence of new waste streams in the wake of globalisation and complex technologies.

Hazard of old mobile phones under spotlight at UN meet

23 June, 2008

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) — The disposal of massive numbers of unwanted mobile phones will be a key focus of a five-day meeting on waste management which started Monday in Indonesia, organisers said.

The fate of the more than three billion of the gadgets in use today will be discussed by more than 1,000 delegates from 170 countries at the meeting on the Basel Convention in Bali, a statement said.

Delegates to the conference will discuss new guidelines for disposing of the phones, which have grown from technological obscurity into a household essential -- and a major waste challenge -- in a matter of years.

The conference would "consider adopting new sets of guidelines for the environmentally sound management of used and end-of-life mobile phones," a statement from the organisers said.

"The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s to ... more than three billion in April, 2008. Sooner or later these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts."

While highlighting the phone issue, organisers said the effect of hazardous waste on human health and livelihoods would be a focus of the ninth "Council of Parties" meeting of the 1992 treaty.

Opening the conference, Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said Indonesia's long coastline made it particularly vulnerable to the illegal dumping of toxic waste.

"Due to its archipelagic nature, with the second longest coastline in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to illegal traffic of transboundary hazardous waste," he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Witoelar said rich nations needed to do more to stop their toxic waste being dumped in poor countries.

"Countries that export their hazardous waste have to be held responsible. There are many cases, such as in Africa, where this waste has killed populations of wildlife like lions and elephants, and even children," he said.

"Developed countries that dump their waste tend to ignore the problem."

The Basel Convention is an international treaty which regulates the international trade in hazardous waste and aims to minimise its generation and movement across borders.

Participants are expected to adopt a "Bali Declaration" aimed at highlighting the importance of health and waste management for global development strategies such as reducing poverty.

Convention Executive Secretary Katharina Kummer Peiry said countries on the receiving end of the trafficking of waste should be able to legally challenge dumping nations.

"There needs to be a joint commitment to help the suffering country using the Basel Convention. A mediating body could be formed and problems could be brought to an international court," she said.

"As we are all too often reminded, hazardous wastes continue to pose serious risks for human health and the environment," Peiry said in a statement ahead of the meeting.
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