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How the e-waste you produce is providing poor children with a dangerous living

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environmental Pollution

 

Source: Indian Express

  

Context: Rising number of children in the extraction of the e-waste sector is a crude and hazardous process that goes unregulated.

  • According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world dumped 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019. India produced 3.2 million metric tons of e-waste, much of which is dumped for dismantling and recycling in Seelampur with no regulations.

  

About e-waste:

  • The term electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) refers to “electrical or electronic equipment, which is waste, including all components, subassemblies, and consumables, which are part of the equipment at the time the equipment becomes waste ”.
  • E-waste includes large, discarded appliances, such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines, as well as small personal items, including computers, televisions, mobile phones, and many other devices that are operated by electrical currents or batteries.

 

What health risks are the children exposed to?

  • Toxic substances: Toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and flame retardants, can be harmful if not properly disposed of. Serious skin diseases and chronic lung infections due to continuous exposure to these chemical-laden toxins.
  • Disabilities: Even relatively low lead exposure in children can result in a reduction in total intelligence quotient (IQ) and several behavioural abnormalities, including a decrease in attention span and an increase in frustration and disruptive behaviour.
  • Exposure to hazardous waste: Like Nickel, Mercury can cause long-term incurable diseases.
  • Environmental contamination: Contaminated soil and water potentially affect the health of local populations, including children.
  • Loss of access to educational opportunities: In some developing countries, e-waste dumping has caused environmental degradation and health problems, leading to school closures and limiting children’s access to education.

  

India’s initiatives to tackle e-waste:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility; Design for Environment; (3Rs) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle technology platform for linking the market facilitating the circular economy aim to encourage consumers to correctly dispose of the e-waste.
  • E-waste (Management) rules 2022
  • India has tried to tackle this unregulated industry and introduced a series of laws in 2011 and 2016 mandating the authorization and registration of all e-waste recycling facilities, along with directives for workers to use protective equipment while dismantling the waste.
  • India’s first e-waste clinic to be set up in Bhopal

  

Way Forward:

Recycling electronic devices through certified e-waste recycling programs or donating them to organizations that can reuse them can help reduce the issue of e-waste.

 

Mains link:

Q. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is becoming major a domestic and global issue. Discuss the steps that must be taken to ensure the safe disposal of e-waste in the country. (15M)