Written By krishna on Friday, October 21, 2011 | 11:51 PM


TWA Welcomes Breakthrough in Cartagena, Colombia on UN Hazardous Waste Treaty



New Delhi October 22, 2011 – Incessant diplomatic efforts resulted in the world witnessing a turning point at the 10th Conference of the Parties of the UN’s Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, as 178 countries which are Parties to it agreed to allow an early entry into force of law of the Basel Ban Amendment that prohibits all exports of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and old obsolete ships from rich to poor countries like India.

This happened as a result of an initiative by Indonesia and Switzerland with the support of environmental groups. Now if 17 more Parties from those countries that were Parties during COP3 ratify the Ban Amendment, it will enter into force.
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) urges Government of India to take the lead in ratifying it and persuading other relevant countries to do so prior to the next Conference of Parties. So far 71 countries have ratified the amendment. Prior to COP10, TWA had written to Ministries of Environment, Commerce and Steel to support Ban Amendment. In a letter to Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Ministry of Environment and Forests, it had demanded that India should ratify the Ban Amendment to ban hazardous waste trade

China, the European Union, and developing countries strongly supported the Ban Amendment. Traditional opponents of the amendment like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India changed their stance for the entry into force of the 1995 treaty. The USA has also opposed but is not a Party of the Convention. Ahead of the upcoming hearing in the Supreme Court, Government of India’s support for Ban Amendment is a step in the right direction.

Basel Convention has regained its original mandate to regulate shipbreaking not the International Maritime Organisation’s Hong Kong Convention given the fact that rate of disposal of end of life ships on Alang beach, Gujarat, Chittagong beach, Bangladesh and Gadani, Pakistan has gathered momentum unmindful of the death of migrant, casual and vulnerable workers and the ongoing contamination of South Asian beaches.

It is hoped that it will pave the way for eliminating all hazardous waste through adoption of substitutes of hazardous materials, Green Design, Clean Production based on Life Cycle Assessment.

The Basel Ban Amendment was originally adopted in 1995 as a proposed amendment to the Basel Convention but has recently been stalled due to uncertainty as to how to interpret the Convention. Now following a diplomatic working group known as the Country Led Initiative, it has been decided that the Ban Amendment will go into force when 68 of the 90 countries that were Parties to the Convention in 1995, ratify the agreement. Currently, 51 of these have ratified the amendment, leaving just 17 more needed. At present there are 178 Parties to the Convention.

“Finally, the blockade has been lifted and the Basel Ban that has been held hostage now for many years is liberated,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network who was present in Cartagena. “The Ban Amendment ensures that developing countries are not convenient dumping grounds for toxic factory waste, obsolete ships containing asbestos, or old computers coming from affluent countries. It enforces the Basel Convention obligation that all countries manage their own hazardous waste.”

It is important that Parties disagreed that the International Maritime Organization’s Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling, provided an equivalent level of control to that of the Basel Convention. The Hong Kong Convention has no motive of minimizing the movement of hazardous ships to poor countries. The Basel Convention ought to act proactively to prevent the dumping of end-of-life ships on the beaches of poor countries like India.

As of now 33 of the 41 developed countries to which the hazardous waste export ban applies have implemented it nationally. Commenting on the Indonesian-Swiss country-led initiative to improve the effectiveness of the Basel Convention, USA had argued ‘whether it is appropriate for a Convention body to seek to define terms such as “second hand goods” and “used goods” and its reference to “specific arrangements that can be applied to used and end of life goods” while expressing its support to combat illegal traffic in wastes, and had suggested that term "vulnerable countries” be replaced with “certain countries”.

COP-10’s decision will exert diplomatic pressure on countries such as USA that never ratified the treaty. They will have to accept the ban as an integral part of the Convention after its entry in to force.

Earlier, Waste without Frontiers: Global trends in generation and transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes (http://www.basel.int/pub/ww-frontiers26Jan2010.pdf), a 36 page study by Basel Convention Secretariat provided a glimpse of the global trends on the generation and transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes produced under the Convention in its first 21 years of existence. TWA hopes that waste will stop following the path of least resistance due to this treaty.

Dr. Frank Pearl, the Colombian Environment Minister, the host reminded that the next generation will at some point come knocking at our door. Responding to it, we have heard the knock, we have opened the door, we have looked into the faces and eyes of our future progeny and we have answered their plea. The Draft Cartagena Declaration on hazardous wastes and other wastes is attached.

TWA appreciates the work of BAN and other environmental organizations which worked towards this end.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, TWA, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com,
Web: toxicswatch.blogpsot.com
Jim Puckett in Cartagena: Phone: +57 3155483958, E-mail: jpuckett@ban.org
For background Documents on COP10 Basel Meeting: Visit: ban.org (Meetings, COP10 Section), basel.int
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