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Theme of UN Treaty’s Meet on Hazardous Wastes, Anti-environment & Human Health

Written By krishna on Monday, October 17, 2011 | 6:37 AM

Press Note

Theme of UN treaty’s meet on hazardous wastes, anti-environment & human health

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) Calls for Voting on Ban Amendment to Basel Convention to ban hazardous waste trade

Colombia Should Desist from Compromise on Ban Amendment

New Delhi: The process of writing the obituary of UN treaty, Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal at its Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP 10) during October 17-21 in CARTAGENA, Colombia has commenced. The theme of COP 10 that focuses on “recovery of wastes” is anti-environment and human health.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) expresses its strong disagreement with the statement of Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director who said, “If managed in an environmentally sound manner, the extraction of valuable secondary raw material from wastes can create green business opportunities and decent jobs for millions of often young people throughout the developing world, thus playing a part in eradicating poverty.” TWA contends that UNEP is speaking in the language of the Bureau of International Recycling, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and World Bank. This is contrary to Rio principles under the unhealthy influence of business interests especially from the US and Japan. US is the world’s largest generator of hazardous waste.

Steiner’s argument underlines that world’s poor should pay the price for the disposal of the world’s hazardous waste with their environment, health and lives. This is quite a regressive step for the UNEP. TWA call on him to enforce the Convention’s Party to non-Party ban to apprehend hazardous waste exports coming from non-Parties like USA to Parties instead of promoting it in myriad disguises. UNEP under Steiner is promoting the status quo and is conniving at the UNEP’s monumental failure in documenting the effects of cost externalization and internalization of pollution.

There is only one touch stone be to determine whether or not COP 10 can stand up to pressures from the international recycling business enterprises which whether not there is voting on the Basel Ban Amendment. The amendment seeking ban on hazardous waste trade will enter into force if India alone or group of countries call for a vote on the question of interpretation of Article 17 of the treaty. TWA calls for voting on the Basel Ban Amendment.

TWA agrees with the assessment that Basel Ban Amendment is already a great success story even before global entry into force, 33 of the 39 countries it applies to have already implemented it in a legally binding manner. Rich countries are indeed appear quite a suspect legally as they are sending wastes to developing countries unmindful of the fact that they have officially reported the desired prohibition to the Basel Convention Secretariat or not.

The seventh session of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) of the Convention that took place in Geneva, Switzerland during 10-14 May 2010 deliberated on cooperation between the Basel Convention and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and cooperation on the environmentally sound dismantling of ships among others issues.

South Asian beaches in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Gadani, Pakistan and Alang, India have seceded from their respective countries and have become the properties of rich ship owning companies and countries of US, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and China. These countries and their transnational shipping companies are instrumental in legitimizing hazardous waste trade with the connivance of the Basel Convention Secretariat. Between January 2011 and October 2011, 27 workers have died in Alang, the Secretariat is guilty of not proving them legal remedy. Similar situation exists in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

TWA expresses its dissatisfaction with the manner in which Basel Convention Secretariat is showing deference towards the anti- environment and anti-worker stance of the IMO that appears to be acting as a mouthpiece of shipping companies of Europe and Japan by paying mere lip-service to equivalent level of control for pollution related issues in the matter of shipbreaking/recycling in South Asia in particular. Shipbreaking is just the tip of the ice berg, the hazardous waste traders seem to have managed to hijack the global treaty against hazardous waste treaty that was adopted after years of hard work by environmental groups globally.

In such context, the studied silence of NGOs linked to European funders is deafening.

TWA appeals to global environmental organizations to recollect their pledge for environmental justice and take urgent steps to put the UN treaty on the right course so that the Secretariat does not become subservient to World Trade Organisation for good.

TWA was present at the simultaneous extraordinary Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions were held from 22-24 February 2010 in Bali, Indonesia and was disappointed to note the indulgence shown to bitter opponents of the Ban Amendment. TWA demands UNEP to study of the totality of externalities involved in the trade in hazardous wastes from rich to poor countries to provide true data on the economic perversion effect of waste trade and its true costs to importing countries. Government of India should take note of the human and ecological cost of current hazardous waste trade and take steps to ban and criminalize it.

It is heartening that Colombia considers the Ban Amendment to be the centerpiece of the Basel Convention but if few countries are not supporting it, it should support a voting on the issue. TWA calls on the Colombian government which is hosting the COP10 to desist from compromising on the issue of ban on transboundary waste shipment as has been indicated by Paula Caballero Gomez, an official with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com
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