Two NGOs ask government to check shipments of hazardous plastic waste from US

Two NGOs ask government to check shipments of hazardous plastic waste from US

There is a critical requirement to place a strong and effective surveillance mechanism to check for illegal waste flows into the country.

Two NGOs - Toxics Link and Basel Action Network - have alerted the government about some shipments of suspected banned hazardous plastic waste presently on their way from the US to India, urging the authorities concerned to thoroughly check the material.

In their three letters to the environment ministry in the past over one month, the NGOs that have been tracking movement of toxic waste across the globe specified vessels that were suspected to be carrying containers of banned toxic plastic waste and even indicated the dates and ports of their arrival along both eastern and western coasts of the country.

The ministry confirmed to TOI about receiving those alerts from the two organisations and said that the necessary action is being taken in the referred cases and “matter is being taken up with enforcement agencies”.

Suspecting imports of two of the banned categories of waste under the Basel Convention that regulates the movement and environmentally sound disposal of hazardous and other wastes, the NGOs in their joint letter to the ministry said, "We hope that these shipments will be met by somebody from the environment ministry and customs agency to ensure they are examined to see if they are legal shipments."

Satish Sinha of New Delhi-based Toxics Link and Jim Puckett of Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN) in their letters to the ministry also attached detailed information in an excel file. They also specified the banned waste and sought for action.

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Asked whether the environment ministry acted on it and had those shipments been checked, the ministry in a written response to TOI said, "We have received the above reference. As per the existing policy, only two plastic compounds, Polythene and Polymethyl methacrylate, are allowed in special economic zones (SEZ). No permission of any plastic waste has been given to be imported in the Domestic Tariff Area. We are taking necessary action in the above referred case and matter is being taken up with enforcement agencies."

Sinha and Puckett in their letter said they were sending the alerts as they believed there was a "high probability" that the wastes indicated in these inbound shipments were banned. They said they would report on the fate of these shipments at the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Basel Convention in Geneva during June 6-17.

“There is a critical requirement to place a strong and effective surveillance mechanism to check for illegal waste flows into the country. We can't be the dumping ground for plastic waste generated in the developed world,” said Sinha while responding to a question from TOI.

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