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Wasteland of used electronics thrives on Delhi’s outskirts

The directive came after the NGT was informed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that Interpol and CBI were probing illegal e-waste units operating on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border.

e waste, delhi pollution, delhi e waste, india e waste, delhi news, delhi garbage, pollution control board, delhi NGT Dense fumes, in shades of yellow and orange, drift up from rows of rusted drums at an e-waste recycling unit, in a village on the way to Ghaziabad. (Source: Gajendra Yadav)

The smell is the first thing that hits you — a foul mixture of nitrous, lead and sulphur dioxide fumes — before your eyes start to water. Then you see the dense fumes, in shades of yellow and orange, drifting up from rows of rusted drums, lined up near a cluster of unfinished houses.

Tila Shahbazpur, located barely 40 km from Delhi and on the way to Ghaziabad, is one among the many areas on the outskirts of Delhi where e-waste is recycled — on a large-scale and illegally. The recycling activity take place less than 600 m from the main village, in an area suffocated by dense fumes and a metallic stench, where the ground has taken on the dark colour of chemicals seeping out of the waste material.

Several motherboards, cathode ray tubes and transformer cables are piled in heaps. These often turn into playgrounds for local children.

e waste, delhi pollution, delhi e waste, india e waste, delhi news, delhi garbage, pollution control board, delhi NGT

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently asked the Ghaziabad administration to notify it about steps being taken to curb illegal activity in e-waste recycling in areas such as Tila Shahbazpur, as well as in Mandoli, Radha Vihar, Kumahar Colony and Rahul Garden.

The directive came after the NGT was informed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that Interpol and CBI were probing illegal e-waste units operating on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border.

The CPCB and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had conducted a joint investigation, and found that the activity was being carried out on a large scale, similar to that in Moradabad — considered to be the hub of e-waste disposal.

According to the guidelines of the Union environment ministry, e-waste has to be handed over only to companies authorised by the state pollution control board. The CPCB had told the NGT that the supply chain for the movement of such large quantities of e-waste could not be traced, and recommended an investigation by local intelligence agencies.

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Rajesh Tila, a resident of the village, said the illegal activity has been going on for over 10 years. Despite efforts by locals to end it, he said these units continue to operate. “The activity takes place mostly at night,” he said.

Tila and two other residents, Satender Kumar and Niranjan Kumar, have filed various pleas in court over the years. The issue was also brought to the notice of the Allahabad High Court in 2008, but the court kept adjourning their plea, they said.

The men have also informed the district magistrate, the UPPCB and even the UP chief minister of the illegal activity. Recently, they said, they stopped filing affidavits in their names as false cases were being registered against them by the owners of the plots.

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The unfinished homes in the village serve as e-waste units, and also provide homes for the labourers. The owners of these units were nowhere to be found. Only the labourers working in the units, mostly women and young men, were present. Few were willing to talk about where they were from or how long they have been working here.

Workers said they earn between Rs 300-400 a day for dismantling the waste, while women and children are paid around Rs 200. The extraction of metals and the acid-leeching is done mainly by men, who are paid Rs 700 a day. Bunty, a 15-year-old-boy who works at one of the units, said, “I work nearly 10 hours a day and make Rs 300. I only dismantle the waste; the more technical work is done by senior workers.”

A police station is located 500 m from the unit. When asked about the unfinished homes, officers said “most of them will be taken down soon”.

Meanwhile, local authorities claim to have ceased the operations of several units. SDM (Loni) Jaipal Singh said, “We are aware of the situation. Vehicles that ferry the metals are regularly stopped and questioned. Just a few days ago, we stopped three ghoda gadis (horse carriages) carrying copper from transformer cables.”

However, a senior officer from Loni says, “Those questioned are usually labourers. They do not own the land and many of them do not know who they work for.”

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Regional officer of the UPPCB, Paras Nath says, “These structures are not permanent. Even if we stop the activity, it resumes in a week. The board does not have the power to conduct an inquiry; we can only issue notices to law enforcement. We have no information about who owns the units or the land on which they have been built.”

On the number of people employed in scrapyards in the capital, Swati Singh Sambyal of the Centre for Science and Environment, said, “Delhi employs 25,000 workers in scrapyards, which handle 10,000-20,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. At least 25 per cent of e-waste generated is from computers while 94 per cent of organisations do not have proper disposal policies.” On its impact on the environment, she said, “Recycling e-waste releases gases, acid solutions and ash. These contain heavy metals that are dangerous to the environment and can cause serious ailments, including cancer.”

First published on: 03-04-2016 at 03:51:09 am
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