The city faces grave health and environmental risks posed by a whopping 19,000 tonnes of electronic waste produced in Mumbai, apart from a good amount of the same being imported clandestinely, a new report has revealed.
What is more alarming is that the rate at which the city is discarding e-waste -- old computers, television, refrigerators and washing machines -- is far higher than what was believed so far, the study has shown.
The report hints that even this shocking figure is at best modest, Satish Sinha, chief programme coordinator of NGO Toxic Link, said on Friday, releasing the report "Mumbai: Choking on e-waste".
"The rate of e-waste generation and the current methods of disposal in Mumbai pose grave environmental and health risks to the city at large due to its dense population and spatial character," he said.
The research team demanded swift action through stronger legislative curbs over import of e-waste and initiation of a multi-stakeholder deliberation to frame a hazard-free e-waste management system in the country.
Sinha said, "Economic extremities and rampant urban poverty have made processing of old and discarded electronic products a dangerous and booming cottage industry for a substantial population of recyclers, waste dealers and middlemen.
"But the fact that this poses a very serious threat to the environment and human health cannot be emphasised enough."
"India generates about 1.5 lakh tonnes of e-waste annually and almost all of it finds its way into the informal sector as there is no organised alternative available at present... the trend is likely to increase manifold in proportion to growth in electronic goods consumption," the report says.
Sinha said cheap labour and crude but dangerous recycling methods, minimum capital input, along with an absence of any regulation of its import, have made India a favoured destination for dumping of e-waste by the developed world.
"It is much more expensive in the developed countries to recycle or dispose electronic waste, as there are many more environmental safeguards that have to be addressed while handling them," Wankhede said.
A substantial part of Mumbai's e-waste, both imported and locally generated, is sent to recycling markets located across the country. The National Capital Region is a preferred destination for printed circuit boards originating here.
Being the hub of India's commercial and financial activities, banks and financial institutions here generate huge amounts of e-waste, but do not have any methods mitigate their disastrous health and environmental impact.
The city has a large network of scrap traders, with hot spots in Kurla, Saki Naka, Kamthipura-Grant Road, Jogeshwari and Malad.
Recycling not only exposes those involved in the activity to serious health hazards, but also pollutes the surroundings.
The Extended Producers Responsibility approach, which broadly implies that producers be made responsible for a product even after the consumer has bought and used it, is emerging as popular alternative for e-waste management in several countries."India needs to take steps in this direction," Wankhade added.