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Why India should support Ban Amendment to UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to prevent dumping of toxic waste

Written By krishna on Sunday, April 30, 2017 | 7:40 PM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)


Shri Bishwanath Sinha
Joint Secretary       
Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Government of India
Subject: Why India should support Ban Amendment to UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal to prevent dumping of toxic waste 


With reference to
the invitation from Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change seeking comments and suggestions on matters of the Basel Convention (BC), Rotterdam Convention (RC) and Stockholm Convention (RC) and with regard to an inconsistent position taken by one of the Indian delegates at the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN’s Basel Convention (BC COP13) on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, we submit the following:
1.      We are distressed to learn that on the opening day of the BC COP13 India’s official delegation shocked the UN Meeting with its statement in opposition to UN accord to stop the flow of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries like India. This is akin to opposing Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Clean India Mission and is in violation of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s verdict in Writ Petition (Civil) No.657 of 1995;
2.      We have learnt that Dr Sonu Singh, one of the official delegates from our country gave a speech crticising the Ban Amendment to Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.  He lowered the stature of India and its scientific community by claiming that the Ban Amendment is contrary to sustainable consumption and the circular economy as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.  He made a bizaare claim that India allows imports of hazardous waste under careful conditions and this is part of its national strategy. India was the ONLY country which made such a statement. How can he make claims about non-existent services and infrastructure to deal with their hazardous waste and other wastes in the absence of required infrastructure like laboratories, treatment facilities and land in the country which can be used for testing samples of imported waste and treatment and landfills? Our India cannot be turned into a land of landfills for foreign hazardous wastes. Unless all the waste that is generated in our own country has been treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner how can hazardous waste import be permitted?;  
3.      This is an admission that trade in hazardous waste will happen in a business as usual manner unmindful of Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Clean India Mission and Hon’ble Court’s verdict. This position is inconsistent with National Environment Policy that includes strategies for cleanup of toxic and hazardous waste dump legacies, developing a national inventory of such dumps, an online monitoring system for movement of hazardous wastes and taking legal measures for addressing emergencies arising out of transportation, handling, and disposal of hazardous wastes. All other Parties who spoke at CoP 13 voiced their very strong support for the Ban Amendment. This delegates’s position is inconsistent with our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Clean India Mission as well;
4.      According to the verdict of Hon’ble Court, “Hazardous Wastes are highly toxic in nature.  The industrialization has had the effect of generation of huge quantities of hazardous wastes.  These and other side effects of development gave birth to principles of sustainable development so as to sustain industrial growth. The hazardous waste required adequate and proper control and handling.  Efforts are required to be made to minimise it.  In developing nations, there are additional problems including that of dumping of hazardous waste on their lands by some of the nations where cost of destruction of such waste is felt very heavy.  These and other allied problems gave birth to Basel Convention.”  This verdict has been given in Writ Petition (Civil) No.657 of 1995. The Convention was made part of its order by the Hon’ble Court due to alarming situation created by dumping of hazardous waste, its generation and serious and irreversible damage, as a result thereof, to the environment, flora and fauna, health of animals and human beings. Hon’ble Court took cognizance of dumping of hazardous wastes in Indian waters as violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is evident from it that the position of this Indian delegate betrays his ignorance about the issue;
5.      We wish inform you that such motivated attempts have attracted widespread criticism from environment, public health groups and even the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) when hazardous wastes and hazardous materials and recyclable materials was being made synonymous. by redefining "hazardous waste" as "hazardous material" in a manifest act of linguistic corruption. It is noteworthy that in a study, Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry (ASSOCHAM) also recommended ban on trade in hazardous wastes. Two members of Hon’ble Court's own monitoring committee on hazardous wastes have also raised objections They who are complicit in promoting hazardous waste dumping in our country are doing so at the behest of hazardous waste traders. Their role needs to be probed; 
6.      We wish to draw your attention towards the fact that European Union has fully implemented the Basel Ban in its Waste Shipment Regulation, making it legally binding in all EU member states. Norway and Switzerland have similarly fully implemented the Basel Ban in their legislation.  In the light of the blockage concerning the entry into force of the Ban amendment, a “Country-led Initiative” (CLI) was launched which was adopted at COP10 of the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the opponents of the Ban Amendment agreed to stand down and not to publicly fight against it anymore. Such statement from the Indian delegate in question is quite at variance with India’s Clean India Mission which is so dear to our Hon’ble Prime Minister;
7.      We are quite disgusted to hear this delegate making an unscientific claim saying that the Basel Ban Amendment works against Sustainable Development Goals. How can he be allowed to make baseless claims to the effect that India’s technology is infallible to import of hazardous wastes. Such statements are contrary to India’s public health and exposes India’s insensitivity towards environmental health. It is unbecoming  of India’s statuture to take such a position at a UN meeting. This is not the way to make Clean India Mission sucessful as desired by our Hon’ble Prime Minister;
8.      We wish to draw your attention towards Basel Convention’s very clear and simple definition of waste: wastes are materials which are disposed of, or intended to be disposed of, or required to be disposed of, to the environment”. Hon’ble Court’s verdict has directed the Union of India to incorporate the Basel list in the existing Rules and had actively argued for expanding the list of prohibited items for import;
9.      We submit that the position ariculated by our delegate is in complete contrast to the revised EU Waste Shipment Regulations, to which all EU member nations need to comply. The new EU rules now require a tracking document to accompany shipments of non-hazardous materials designated as waste, including recyclables. But the scrap industry feels that the complexity of information required by the new EU rules was totally illogical, complaining that it did not offer clear environment benefit. If senior officials endorse this anti-India position of Dr Singh then it amounts to a formal announcement that India is welcoming globalisation of the toxic hazardous waste and it arrival in Indian waters. India should call for the development of guidance to aid countries to help prohibit efforts to reclassify hazardous waste as non-waste in an exercise of circuitous defintition. Hazardous waste exporters from rich countries have been consistently seeking to export toxic scrap to India and likewise, there has been a similar trend amongst businesses in the India to import such waste. This is being done despite the fact that National Environment Policy acknowledges how "Environmental factors are estimated as being responsible in some cases for nearly 20 percent of the burden of disease in India";
10.  We urge you to review the position taken by Dr Sonu Singh and articulate Government of India’s intention to ratify the Ban Amendment to Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. India missed the opportunity of ratifying it before the Twelfth Conference of the Parties held in Geneva during 4-15 May, 2015.
11.  We submit that India must take a principled stand in tune with the main principles of this UN treaty which are: transboundary movements of hazardous wastes should be reduced to a minimum consistent with their environmentally sound management; hazardous wastes should be treated and disposed of as close as possible to their source of generation; and hazardous waste generation should be reduced and minimized at source. This position of Dr Singh is contrary to these principles and stands in manifest contrast with its position in 1992.
12.  You may recollect that by decision III/1, of September 22, 1995, at COP-3, the Third meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the above Convention that took place in Geneva in September 1995, adopted an Amendment to the Convention. This bans the export of hazardous wastes for final disposal and recycling from rich countries to poorer countries. This Article reads as follows: “Instruments of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance of amendments shall be deposited with the Depositary. Amendments adopted in accordance with paragraphs 3 or 4 [of article 17 of the Convention] shall enter into force between Parties having accepted them on the ninetieth day after the receipt by the Depositary of their instrument of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance by at least three-fourths of the Parties who accepted them or by at least two thirds of the Parties to the protocol concerned who accepted them, except as may otherwise be provided in such protocol. The amendments shall enter into force for any other Party on the ninetieth day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance of the amendments.” The Ban Amendment has not entered into force despite the fact that 89 parties have accepted it becasue that requires ratification by 3/4 of the member states to the Convention as per Article 17.5. So far, the Parties of the Basel Convention have not been able to agree as to whether this would be three fourth of the Parties that were Party to the Basel Convention when the Ban was adopted, or three fourth of the current Parties of the Convention. This amendment was to enter into force following ratification by 62 parties as per Article 17 (5) of the Convention. Ban Amendment needs ratification of only 12 more members for it to come into force. We submit that the parent treaty, the Basel Convention has been ratified by 183 countries;
13.  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, India’s position  have faced continued dilution. These countries and interests never wished Convention, Ban Amendment and compliant Rules to come into force;
14.  As part of Clean India Mission, our Government should try to regain its original stance of being a strong opponent of the international waste trade and an ardent supporter ban on toxic waste exports from the world’s richest countries to less industrialized ones. Government of India should recollect its position at the First Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention in Piriapolis, Uruguay, from 3-4 December, 1992. Shri A. Bhattacharja, Head of the Indian delegation who pleaded with industrialized countries to stop exporting hazardous waste. “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.” Government of India was firm even at the Second Basel Convention Conference of Parties, in March 1994 and advocated ban on all hazardous waste exports from the world’s most  industrialized countries, the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to non-industrialized countries like India. It was only in 1995 that Government of India revised its position at the Third Basel Conference of Parties in September 1995 under the harmful influence of representatives of the US and Australia. This led to an Indian delegate announcing that it was reconsidering its position on the Basel Ban as a consequence of the regressive statement of Shri Kamal Nath, the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests who averred, “We are against environmentally unfriendly recycling. We are not against the movement of waste, provided the recipient has adequate equipment, facility and the proper process to deal with it.” This was a direct assault on intent of Basel Convention. It was the first nail in the coffin. Consequently, India did not ratify the ‘Ban Amendment’ to the Basel Convention, which could have stopped the import of hazardous waste and stopped India from becoming a leading dumping ground;
15.  We submit that US Government and ICC have been instrumental in outwitting the UN ban on hazardous waste trade through bilateral Free Trade Agreements between countries. In one of its position paper on the Basel Convention, ICC has even called for the ban on hazardous waste to be stopped by the World Trade Organization (WTO) because it is trade disruptive. This undermines the customary environmental law principles. It is noeowrthy that Wikileaks has revealed how the US Government ensured that the same Shri Kamal Nath was not made the Commerce Minister again for his position in WTO negotiations in a different context;
16.  To safeguard our country’s environmental security and maritime security, India should not allow itself to be misled by hazardous waste traders who are blinded by their lust for profit at any human and environmental cost. In any case the truth about who all were immorally, unethically and unpatriotically complicit with merchants of death, the hazardous waste traders and who all defended public health will not remain hidden for long. It is high time the present Government disassociated itself from the regressive legacy and adopted its glorious legacy to safeguard India’s supreme national interest and the health of present and future generations;
In view of the above facts, before the UN meeting ends on May 5, Government should articulate its support for Ban Amendment and ratify it in order to save India from becoming the dumping ground of rich countries which are transferring harm becasue they want to protect their own environment and public health. The review of Dr Sonu Singh’s position provides a chance to recover the lost ground and re-adopt our 1992 position and ask the rich countries to “keep your own waste” for global common good. We earnestly appeal to you to ensure that foreign toxic waste does not flow in the veins and arteries of present and future Indians.  
Thanking you in anticipation
Warm Regards
Dr Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
Shri Anil Madhav Dave, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Shri Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister
Shri Pradeep Kumar Sinha, Cabinet Secretary          
Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor   
Shri Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Niti Aayog
Shri Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change

We may admire what he does, but we despise what he is."-referring to humans who act mechanically on instructions -------Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1792
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