The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court gets tough on toxic waste

New Delhi, Oct. 15: The Supreme Court has ordered that hazardous waste consignments lying in ports be re-exported or destroyed at the importers’ cost.

A division bench of Justices Y.K. Sabharwal and B.. Agrawal passed a 52-page order on a petition filed by Research Foundation for Science and Technology alleging that toxic waste had reached dangerous proportions and was damaging the environment.

The bench said: “There cannot be any question of permitting these consignments making their way to the Indian soil.” It added that consignments containing hazardous waste, which has been banned under the Basel Convention, “have either to be re-exported, if permissible, or destroyed at the ultimate risk, cost and the consequence of the importer”.

The Basel Convention of 1999 addresses the problem of dumping of hazardous wastes in developing nations by companies belonging to developed countries.

The bench said the waste, whose import is allowed but which is lying unclaimed in the ports, could be released or disposed of or auctioned to registered recyclers or reprocessors.

The Supreme Court took note that 80 per cent of the country’s hazardous waste is generated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

“Strict monitoring to ensure compliance of directions, rules and regulations so as to ensure minimising of the generation of hazardous waste and its proper handling, is required more in these states...” the court said.

The judges said port and customs authorities must ensure that any consignment entering India matches with that sent out by the exporting country before clearing the import of any hazardous waste.

They said the Central Pollution Control Board would be allowed to monitor the import of hazardous waste for two years, adding that it had the authority to make random checks from time to time.

The bench said the central board as well as state pollution control boards should be strengthened so that they can implement court orders on curbing the import and production of such wastes.

The court said the boards should have the infrastructure to frame guidelines and monitor their implementation.

It also directed all state pollution boards to prepare inventories on waste generation and file these before the Supreme Court after verification by the central board.

“The toxic inventory with regard to hazardous waste dump sites in different states should be prepared by state pollution control boards and after verification by (the) Central Pollution Control Board, shall be filed in this court so that the orders can be passed on the same being treated as authenticated national inventory on hazardous waste dump sites,” it said.

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