India should ratify the Ban Amendment to ban hazardous waste trade

Statement of Toxics Watch Alliance

India should ratify the Ban Amendment to ban hazardous waste trade

10th Meeting of UN’s Basel Convention to Commence on October 17

CAG Should Audit Kamal Nath and A Raja’s Tenure at Environment Ministry to Ascertain Harm

New Delhi: Environmental groups have demanded that Government of India should ratify the Ban Amendment to Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal at the 5 -day UN meeting from 17 to 21 October 2011 in the city of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has written to Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, Hazardous Substances Management Division, Ministry of Environment and Forests with copies to Union Environment, Commerce and Steel Ministers in this regard.

The main principles of this UN treaty are: transboundary movements of hazardous wastes should be reduced to a minimum consistent with their environmentally sound management; hazardous wastes should be treated and disposed of as close as possible to their source of generation; and hazardous waste generation should be reduced and minimized at source. The Basel Convention covers hazardous wastes that are explosive, flammable, poisonous, infectious, corrosive, toxic, or ecotoxic. Government of India’s current position is contrary to these principles and stands in manifest contrast with its position in 1992.

By decision III/1, of September 22, 1995, at COP-3, the Third meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the above Convention that took place in Geneva in September 1995, adopted an Amendment to the Convention. This bans the export of hazardous wastes for final disposal and recycling from rich countries to poorer countries. This amendment was to enter into force following ratification by 62 parties as per Article 17 (5) of the Convention.

This Article reads as follows: “Instruments of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance of amendments shall be deposited with the Depositary. Amendments adopted in accordance with paragraphs 3 or 4 [of article 17 of the Convention] shall enter into force between Parties having accepted them on the ninetieth day after the receipt by the Depositary of their instrument of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance by at least three-fourths of the Parties who accepted them or by at least two thirds of the Parties to the protocol concerned who accepted them, except as may otherwise be provided in such protocol. The amendments shall enter into force for any other Party on the ninetieth day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval, formal confirmation or acceptance of the amendments.”

The Ban Amendment has not entered into force despite the fact that 70 parties have ratified it because Basel Convention Secretariat appears to have surrendered under the influence of powerful hazardous waste traders. The parent treaty, the Basel Convention that adopted in 1989 entered into force on 5 May 1992 has been ratified by 175 countries.

Government of Colombia is hosting the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Basel Convention. An invitation has been received from the Secretariat of the Basel Convention United Nations Environment Programme. A copy of the same is attached.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) expresses its disagreement with the theme of the COP 10 which will focus on “Prevention, minimization and recovery of wastes” and its efforts to explore ways in which the Basel Convention could be made to turn wastes into valuable resources, so as to create business and job opportunities, while protecting human health, livelihood, and the environment under the influence of countries like USA, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan in general and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, International Chamber of Commerce, US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), the international trade federation representing the world’s recycling industry.

TWA appeals to the Commerce, Environment and Steel Ministry to regain its original stance of being a strong opponent of the international waste trade and an ardent supporter ban on toxic waste exports from the world’s richest countries to less industrialized ones.

TWA was present at the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-9) to the Basel Convention convened from 23-27 June 2008, in Bali, Indonesia. At COP-9, there deliberations on the interpretation of Article 17(5), relating to the entry into force of the Ban Amendment.

TWA takes the opportunity to remind the Government of India to recollect it position at the First Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention in Piriapolis, Uruguay, from 3-4 December, 1992. TWA salutes A. Bhattacharja, Head of the Indian delegation who pleaded with industrialized countries to stop exporting hazardous waste. “You industrial countries have been asking us to do many things for the global good — to stop cutting down our forests, to stop using your CFCs. Now we are asking you to do something for the global good: keep your own waste.”

TWA notes that Government of India was firm even at the Second Basel Convention Conference of Parties, in March 1994 and advocated ban on all hazardous waste exports from the world’s most industrialized countries, the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to non-industrialized countries like India.

TWA underlines that it was only in 1995 that Government of India revised its position at the Third Basel Conference of Parties in September 1995 under the harmful influence of representatives of the US and Australia. This led to Indian government announcing that it was reconsidering its position on the Basel Ban.

Environment Ministry must disassociate itself from the regressive statement of Kamal Nath, the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests who averred, “We are against environmentally unfriendly recycling. We are not against the movement of waste, provided the recipient has adequate equipment, facility and the proper process to deal with it.” This was a direct assault on intent of Basel Convention. It was the first nail in the coffin. Consequently, India did not ratify the ‘Ban Amendment’ to the Basel Convention, which could have stopped the import of hazardous waste and stopped India from becoming a leading dumping ground. “The last damage was done at the Bali Conference on the Basel Convention when the then Minister of State for Environment Namo Narain Meena said that we saw hazardous waste as recyclable material under the influence of Commerce Ministry, which has adopted the policy of free trade in hazardous waste unmindful its environmental and human cost.

US Government and ICC have been instrumental in outwitting the UN ban on hazardous waste trade through bilateral Free Trade Agreements between countries. In one of its position paper on the Basel Convention, ICC has even called for the ban on hazardous waste to be stopped by the World Trade Organization (WTO) because it is trade disruptive. This undermines the customary environmental law principles. Wikileaks has revealed how the US Government ensured that the same Kamal Nath was not made the Commerce Minister again for his position in WTO negotiations in a different context.

The UN Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia provides Government of India an opportunity to recover the lost ground and re-adopt its 1992 position and ask the rich countries to “keep your own waste” for global common good. TWA demands that Government should not delay its ratification of Ban Amendment anymore.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com, www.basel.int

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