January 16, 2018
As a digital nation that produces some of the highest levels of e-waste in the world, India needs “pre-emptive solutions” for sustainability, according to Dr Urvashi Aneja.
Aneja, who is an Associate Fellow at the Asia Programme, has penned an opinion piece about the need for a circular economy in India, originally published in the Indian Express. She writes that “growing e-waste represents the hidden cost of increasingly digital lives in an information society” and advises that for “Digital India” to be sustainable, the country must develop “anticipatory knowledge for pre-emptive solutions.”
With the most recent Global E-Waste Monitor revealing that India is one of the biggest contributors of global e-waste, and with increasing levels of technology in use both at home, in government and in industry, India has already been feeling the negative impact of its significant e-waste generation.
Aneja explains that, despite the fact the country is “already a leader in the management and recycling of e-waste”, the majority of the waste “is managed in the unorganised sector” and as a result, nearly 80 percent of e-waste workers “suffer from respiratory ailments due to improper standards”. Meanwhile, government regulations for the management of e-waste “are becoming more relaxed”.
In 2011 the Indian government instituted new Electronic Waste Rules based on extended producer responsibility (EPR), which places the burden of responsibility on manufacturers. However, the impact of these rules has been “minimal” and a new Draft Notification implemented last year “further relaxes the EPR rule” through the reduction of industry e-waste collection targets. According to Aneja, “Without adequate and pre-emptive consideration of how this waste should be disposed and recycled, renewable energy solutions can create new negative externalities.”
She goes on to describe the importance of querying India’s sustainability as rivalling “the need for sustained job-creating economic growth” and says that the choice required by the current e-waste problem is “one that embraces the idea of a circular economy”.
This circular economy “vision” would incorporate the organisation of “informal waste management systems, including safety and social protection initiatives for workers; revising and tightening existent e-waste rules for increased accountability by manufacturers both in terms of durable design and responsible disposal; green data centres; and building future Smart Cities with a view towards energy and water efficiency, among others.”
Implementing these measures would, Aneja writes, allow India the chance to “capitalise and leverage and already existing culture of circular activities”, creating “new forms of employment” as well as “facilitating sustainable environmental management.”
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