Cops arrest Greenpeace activists, government ignores illegal e-waste import

Press release - October 4, 2007
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace today confronted the Union Commerce Ministry with evidence of the ongoing illegal import of electronic wastes into the country, in the name of reuse and charity. Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Udyog Bhavan with a display depicting the irony of obsolete and scrap computers and their components being imported into India, ostensibly for ‘reuse’. Police filed charges for unlawful assembly against five Greenpeace activists even as the Ministry of Commerce asked for one month to look into the issue of illegal waste imports.

Greenpeace activists at the Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi, demand a ban on the import of electronic waste. The organization presented evidence of the illegal import of e-waste into the country in the guise of computers for reuse and charity.

"The continued import of e-waste for recycling, under the guise of reuse or charity, is a flagrant violation of the laws of the land(1), including Supreme Court orders and international legislation such as the Basel Convention," said Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner. "The Ministry of Commerce cannot turn a blind eye to this crime, which poses a threat to India's environment and its people. What is needed is an immediate and complete ban on the import of second-hand used computers and electronics."

Greenpeace has evidence that large amounts of E-waste from developed countries like US, the European Union and Japan are entering India for recycling and disposal, exploiting a loophole that permits the import of second hand computers for reuse and for charitable donations. India already has a proven lack of capacity to safely recycle domestically generated electronic waste, and illegal waste imports are further compounding the problem. E-waste recycling, particularly in informal recycling yards, has dangerous consequences for the environment and workers' health as e-waste typically contains hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium and Brominated Flame Retardants.

According to import records procured by Greenpeace pertaining to shipments entering through the Chennai port, even old cables, mouse pads, printed circuit boards, printers, batteries, keyboards, RAM chips and hard disks are being imported, aside from old monitors and processors. The total amount of E-waste imported through Chennai port between January and June 2007 was approximately 628 tonnes.

"This is just the tip of iceberg, with thousands of tonnes entering from other ports such as Mumbai, Kochi and Kolkata, destined for the informal recycling system. It is ridiculous for any one to suggest that India needs to import cables, RAM cards or printed circuit boards for reuse, this clearly shows that the real intention is recycling or disposal!" said Kumar. "India needs a complete ban on the import of used computers and electronic wastes, without further delay, and it is up to the Ministry of Commerce to act in the nation's interest," he stressed.

The five activists were released on bail on sureties at 10 p.m.

For further information, contact

Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner @ 09845535414

Saumya Tripathy, Grenpeace Communications @ 0934386212

Notes to Editor

The import of hazardous waste into India for disposal has been banned by the Supreme Court of India in 1997. Further, according to the Basel Convention, the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries for disposal or recovery is banned. Additionally, according to Para 2.17 of the EXIM policy, 2002-07, Import of Second hand goods is only permitted with the permission of the Director General of Foreign Trade. Import of e-waste is also restricted as a part of List-A and List-B of Schedule –3 of the Hazardous waste (Management & Handling) Rules 1989, as amended in 2003 under the Environment Protection Act. The import of such goods requires the specific permission of the Ministry of Environment and Forest.