In India the last three years have seen hazardous waste import increased by 48%.In 2009 6.4 million tonnes of hazardous waste came from the west to India and 5.9 million tones was produced domestically. Much of this waste was metal, electronics and plastics. They may have contaminated with lead, mercury and other toxins which can cause serious illness and environmental damage. The brass import increased by 60%.Battery waste import doubled. Municipal ash import rose 70 times. Iron and stainless waste steel import increased by 40%.Plastic waste import increased seven times.
The government is supposed to monitor the import of hazardous waste which enters India through a gap in the law that allows the import of waste for recycling. Most of the ports in India do not have radiation scanning technology. Workers processing hazardous waste use their eyes to tell the difference. Most of the waste enters through ports of Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta, Cochin and Visakhapatnam.
Waste comes to distribution centers like West Delhi’s Mundka and Mumbai’s Dharavi before being taken away by different agents to specialty processing markets like Seelampur in Delhi. Agents sell the components to others who sell them to factories. The finished recycled products much cheaper than their branded counterparts are sold in the wholesale markets.
In New Delhi Seelampur is the biggest market for second hand electronic parts. But most of the shops here are not registered as legal recyclers which have deterred the entry of legal recyclers. The informal sector gets 95% of the business as they do not pay the cost to meet the environment norms. When a court order shut down all plastics burning in Seelampur five years ago, the industry merely shifted 8 kms away.
India has a capacity to handle just 30% of its domestic waste. India’s capacity to treat hazardous waste is not growing at the same pace as waste generations. Although recycling industries are temporarily profitable; the damage to the environment is often permanent. Near Moradabad, the waters of the once –fertile Ramganga river have turned black with plastic ash. With no government control and little regard for the environment, the private waste-processing industry poses a threat to public safety in India.