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CBI Should Probe Hazardous Wastes Trade: Supreme Court Monitoring Committee

Written By krishna on Friday, October 21, 2011 | 4:03 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Press Release

CBI Should Probe Hazardous Wastes Trade: Supreme Court Monitoring Committee

UNEP attempts to create a regime for free trade in waste, condemnable

10th Meeting of UN’s Basel Convention to Concludes today

Supreme Court to hear Hazardous Waste Case on November 15

New Delhi/21/10/2011: Global hazardous waste trade treaty’s 10th conference of parties (COP 10) dwelt on a path forward on the Ban Amendment to UN’s Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal but under tremendous influence of hazardous waste traders it emerged that it wants to “turn wastes into valuable resources” in order to make it a “non new good” contrary to Supreme Court’s order.

On October 18, 2011, India called for further discussions of the legal interpretation of Article 17(5) in a contact group instead of calling for voting on the issue to ensure that Ban Amendment comes into force. EU’s support for the Ban Amendment appeared suspect as it continued to support International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s treaty on Ship Recycling/Shipbreaking (Hong Kong Convention) that does not ban imports of hazardous wastes laden end-of-life vessels and India-EU Free Trade Agreement on October 19. Both Indian environmental groups and Indian shipbreaking industry oppose IMO's treaty as anti-worker and anti-environment but Government of India seems to be representing someone else in this regard.

The Supreme Court’s bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice H L Gokhale passed an October 11, 2011 saying, “...many of the directions given and contained in the judgment delivered on 14th October, 2003, reported in (2005)10 SCC 510, along with the recommendations of the Monitoring Committee which had been constituted by this Court by virtue of the said judgment, are yet to be complied with, we direct the respondent, Union of India/Government of India to consider the report of the Monitoring Committee prepared by Dr. D.B. Boralkar and Dr. Claude Alvares, the directions contained at page 541 of the aforesaid judgment and a copy of the submissions filed on behalf of the writ petitioner on 21st September, 2011, and to prepare a note as to what steps have been taken to implement the directions and, if the same have not been implemented, as to why the same have not been implemented. While considering the aforesaid report and judgment, the Government of India shall also consider the other judgment in the same matter reported in (2005) 13 SCC 186. Let this matter be adjourned till 15th November, 2011...” The order is attached. The Basel Convention which has been adopted by the Supreme Court of India seeks national legislation, national reporting and enforcement to mitigate illegal trafficking of hazardous wastes.

The report of Boralkar and Alvares, the members of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes has recommended investigation by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to get to the bottom of the ongoing trade in hazardous wastes. The report and pictures are available here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6179856/SCMC%20BC%20March%203%202007.pdf
It is noteworthy that Interpol has a Pollution & Environment Crime Working group, India also needs one. World Customs Organisation enforces six multilateral environmental treaties with its help.

It has been reported that Article X-15 of the India-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations about ‘non-new goods’ (an euphemism for waste), which is expected to be concluded by the end of this year. Government of India has been ignoring Parliament of India in these matters. In a complete contrast on March 5, 2009, the European Parliament voted on 140 tabled amendments to the draft report on the FTA between India and the European Union (EU). Has Parliament in our country been given any such opportunity for instance, to take a considered view on hazardous waste trade? Meanwhile, the 1083 page India-Japan Free Trade Agreement legitimizes waste trade for good. Like Germany and UK, Japan too has been a consistent opponent of the Basel Convention.

The status of Ban Amendment to Basel Convention is the same as Kyoto Protocol is to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Basel Convention is a global environmental treaty dealing with hazardous and other wastes. It has 178 members and aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of the generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes.

In the matter of trade obligations and commitments of generators of hazardous wastes is quite clear. It is a sad day for global environmental movement that at time when exporters, importers and waste processers have ganged up against human health and environment in collusion with UNEP, there is a disturbing silence from the NGOs of the richer countries in particular and donor driven NGOs of the poorer countries.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) strongly disapproves of Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director at the Basel COP 10 meeting attempts to legitimize “moves forward in establishing a regime for countries who wish to trade in waste”, thereby dividing the world into those love trade in hazardous waste and those who do not and to create a “balance” between them.

Senior Advisory Group of Experts to the Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention Secretariat met from 18 to 19 January 2011 to subvert the definition of waste and turn it into non-waste in the name of exploring the economic potential of the extracting resources from waste. After the meet, the Basel Convention Secretariat and Ms. Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention circulated a non-paper titled “SHIFTING PARADIGMS: FROM WASTE TO RESOURCES”. This appears to be a scandalous act that tantamount to an unpardonable environmental sin by Basel Convention Secretariat and United Nations Environment Programme under Executive Director, Achim Steiner. It was under the influence of hazardous waste traders that COP10 attempted to dedicate itself to the controversial theme of ‘recovery, of wastes’ in order to promote fake green business and dirty, degrading and dangerous job opportunities, while paying lip service to human health, livelihood, and the environment. The non-paper is attached.

Basel Convention Secretariat under Ms. Peiry and UNEP under Steiner’s leadership seems to have adopted regressive Lawrence Summers principle under the influence of countries like USA, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan in general and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, International Chamber of Commerce, US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), the international trade federation representing the world’s recycling industry. These entities were opposed to principles of Basel Convention at least since 1992 when the treaty was adopted unlike India. Since Kamal Nath’s tenure as Union Environment Minister, later as Union Commerce Minister and now with Anand Sharma, as Union Commerce Minister there is been noticeable reversal in India’s position against public health and environment. Notably, in February 2002, the Supreme Court had fined the Ministry of Environment & Forests Rs.10, 000 for not having complied with its orders regarding the disappearance of hazardous waste oil from major ports in the country. Prior to that the court had ordered on May 5, 1997, "no authorisation or permission (for hazardous waste) would be given to any authority ... which has already been banned by the Union government or by any order made by any court or any other authority...(In addition to this) no import would be made or permitted … under the Basel Convention."

In such a backdrop, TWA welcomes the step of Parliament of Republic of Malta, a Southern European country which has approved the ratification of the amendment to the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-Frontier Movements of Hazardous Waste on October 19, 2011. The amendment is aimed at prohibiting exports of hazardous waste to developing countries. TWA hopes that Parliament of India too will prevail on Government of India to ratify the Ban Amendment to prohibit hazardous waste trade that is being promoted by its Commerce Ministry under the undue influence of traders.

The Third meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP3) to the Convention in Geneva in September 1995 an Ban Amendment was adopted. This bans the export of hazardous wastes for final disposal and recycling from rich countries to poorer countries. This amendment was to enter into force following ratification by 62 parties as per Article 17 (5) of the Convention. The Ban Amendment has not entered into force despite the fact that 70 parties have ratified it because Basel Convention Secretariat appears to have surrendered under the influence of powerful hazardous waste traders. The parent treaty, the Basel Convention that adopted in 1989 entered into force on 5 May 1992 has been ratified by 175 countries.

It is quite sad that after acknowledging that “Trade in hazardous wastes has grown significantly between developing countries, a trend unforeseen when the Convention was adopted more than two decades ago”, UNEP and the Basel Convention Secretariat incorrectly state, “such trade is not addressed by the Ban Amendment, which was adopted in 1995 and has 70 Parties.” Both these agencies have failed in not putting the issue of a long-standing dispute over how to calculate the requisite number of ratifications needed which has defied resolution by consensus to vote. It is an act of dereliction of duty.

In a year prior to the 20th anniversary of the Rio Conference on Environment and Development and the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, UNEP appears subservient to hazardous waste traders. The 5 -day UN meeting from 17 to 21 October 2011 in the city of Cartagena, Colombia concludes today. TWA had written to Ministry of Environment and Forests, Commerce and Steel Ministers to adopt its original position of 1992 articulated in Piriapolis, Uruguay in December 1992, by A. Bhattacharja, Head of the Indian delegation saying, "You industrial countries have been asking us to do many things for the global good -- to stop cutting down our forests, to stop using your CFCs. Now we are asking you to do something for the global good: keep your own waste." It is hoped that both Supreme Court and Parliament will act in time to set matters right before it is too late and ask the rich countries and their waste traders to keep their own waste, our own waste is too much to handle.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com, www.basel.int
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