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Waste Not Asia meeting organised in Korea

Written By mediavigil on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | 8:49 AM

My arrival at Inchon International Airport, South Korea, was quite an experience; it reminded one of the contrast it presents to Indian airports. The journey at night from the airport to check into Ho-Am Faculty House, at Seoul National University, made me cough several times because the air seemed cleaner than Delhi to which one is accustomed. Our Korean hosts had made superb arrangements; they kept themselves awake even after mid-night for our sake.

The Waste Not Asia (WNA) meeting, 2004, began on June 21 after the welcome remarks made by Jai-ok Kim, Co-Chairperson, Korea Zero Waste Movement Network (KZWMN), Korea and opening remarks made by Manny C. Calonzo, Assistant Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Philippines, and Minister of Environment, Korea. The day began with presentations and discussions on ‘Extended producer responsibility -- Holding producers responsible for designing cleaner and safer products: Principles and progress to date”. Beverley Thorpe, Director, Clean Production Action (International), Canada, stood out in her vocal and persuasive presentation on Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR).

The discussion on ‘Zero waste: Going beyond recycling’ was revealing.

Gigie Cruz and Abi Jabines launched GAIA’s Zero Waste Online. Presentations on “Zero waste communities: Making it happen” by Zero Waste Pakistan: Hammad Naqi Khan, Director, Environmental Pollution Unit, WWF-Pakistan, Zero Waste Kamikatsu: Hitomi Azuma, Kamikatsu, Tokushima, Japan and Zero Waste Korea: Park, Seok-Dong, Director, Korea Buddhist Academy for Ecological Awakening, Korea, exposed the participants to diverse ways of how communities are working towards zero waste.

On June 22, there was a special session on Bhopal as an Appeal for Global Action against Corporate Crime. The issue was raised in all its gravity by Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director, Centre for Environment Justice, Sri Lanka, Madhumita Dutta and Tara Buakamsri, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Thailand.

The workshop on ‘Plastics: Focus on Polyvinylchloride (PVC) -- Issues and Challenges’ revealed the fact that although most of the environmental groups are aware of its hazards, they are not working in proportion to the enormity of the hazard.

My presentation on behalf of Toxics Link on how to campaign against incinerators was quite well received for it brought to light the issue of the involvement of multilateral environmental agreements and World Trade Organisation (WTO). Von Hernandez, Co-Coordinator, GAIA, Philippines, agreed to persuade GAIA to include this issue in the campaign efforts.

To understand the EPR System in Korean recycling companies, visits were arranged, on June 23, to Samyang PET bottle recycling plant, Recom computer recycling plant, Sudokwon refrigerator, washing machine and air conditioner recycling plant.

The cultural night and farewell party at Nak-sung-dae Park was wonderfully conducted by Roy Alvarez, film actor and Vice President, Mother Earth Unlimited, Philippines.

On June 24, reports on regional planning meetings were discussed and evaluated. The day ended with farewell remarks from Korea Zero Waste Movement Network, Korea.

Earlier, journalists had evinced keen interest in Bhopal’s (India) chemical disaster at a press conference at the Korean Official Media Briefing Centre, which was addressed by GAIA, Philippines Toxics Link, Clean Production Action (International), Canada, and a Professor from Japan.

At the WNA 2004, I feel we should have been more strident, vocal and articulate both on policy and on site-specific campaigns. To begin with, I had come with huge expectations about the campaign on EPR and our approach to Corporate Accountability but the issue could not emerge due to paucity of time.

On plastics I sought arguments from everyone at WNA to campaign and fight the onslaught of plastics being used in roads being promoted in India, but I did not get the arguments.

The presentation on EPR by Beverley Thorpe, Director, Clean Production Action (International), Canada was comprehensive. But from a legal point of view, since EPR is a matter of law, the fact remains that even if EPR comes into being it would address the present and future problems and not the problems of the past for law cannot have retrospective effect.

Also it appears to me that at present EPR only envisage damages under torts directly or indirectly. Every injury must have a remedy but there is no remedy in EPR under criminal law. If our homes and houses are trespassed against, it is deemed a crime. How is it that when our bodies are trespassed against, it is not being deemed a crime?

On Corporate Accountability, I wished there should have been strident criticism of the UN Global Compact, and vocal support for the new UN Norms on Transnational Corporations that has emerged from UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, which are mandatory and are facing criticism from the corporations.

On zero waste in India, the fact of it being pursued in the state of Uttaranchal and the support it is beginning to receive in Delhi did not find reflection. It occurred to me that what Zero Waste Kamikatsu's message has for all is that "one city can change the country" deserves utmost attention.

The issue of incinerators being promoted for industrial waste in India somehow remained unaddressed. Setsuko' s presentation was also quite revealing for India where Japanese incinerators are being cited as a solution by the plastic industry.

The visits to the recycling factories provided an opportunity to witness the reality of environmental and occupational safety measures.

The South Asian group met separately to work in collaboration -- it occurred to me that activism was missing and pragmatism was having a field day.

I feel the success of Korea Zero Waste Movement Network is yet to be seen in its complete implementation. Korea's recycling factories are still using incinerators... and the managers told us that they do not know of any alternatives.

I heard about the success of waste management in Lebanon after listening to a presentation about it. It seems one cannot comprehend its success without visiting the country.
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