Pakistan fast becoming dumping site for global e-waste

Lead 04-09STAFF REPORT IBD: Pakistan has become the most vulnerable country among the poor states to the e-waste being produced especially by the developed world giving rise to the e-waste recycling cottage industry besides causing multiple human diseases and negative impacts on environment as this e-waste carries toxic fumes.

Rapid advancements in technology has been mentioned the main reason behind consumers frequently replacing mobile phones, televisions sets and computers that create e-waste. According to the estimates, 28 million metric tons of electronic and electrical waste is produced every year across the world.

Repeated efforts have been made to draw the attention of the authorities in Pakistan to this sensitive issue and stressed the need for making laws to control this silent but critical issue but so far no progress has been made in this regard.

A recently furnished survey report reveals that in Pakistan e-waste recycling workers burn wires in the open exposing millions of population especially those residing close to the e-waste dumping locations like Karachi and Lahore to the toxic fumes released from this e-waste.

“This is the unfortunate reality for many people in Pakistan,” says researcher Shakila Umair, whose has compiled the first known evidence of horrifying conditions in the countrys secretive e-waste recycling cottage industry. She is the PhD student from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

“I have seen barrels of acid filled with disintegrating wires set just a few feet from where an entire family sleeps, and children playing in the soot left from people burning wires in the open air,” she explained while presenting her findings at an international conference recently held in Zurich.

According to her, the ICT industry could work with the Pakistani government to make the work safer, but the biggest problem has been the lack of documentation about the problem.

According to experts, governance is not just about forming ministries and touring around giving speeches of policies good for the people, but rather governance is actually in implementing the policies on the ground. On paper everything looks ready, but in the case of e-waste, that is not even the case, since Pakistans government is yet to realize this secretive mafia working in the e-waste recycling business.

They said that the workers which are mostly from the villages get paid around $2.70 per day and for them it is a living. But for the government, it should be a problem due to the dangers it poses not only for the workers exposed to such toxicity but also the threat to the environment.

It is said that e-waste comes to Pakistan from around the world, but however, the experts dont believe in stopping that from happening. Rather, they want something done about handling this e-waste from around the globe. The discarded gadgets, which are deemed unworthy by consumers from the first-world countries, are often made into use again, but once they are done at this stage, they become a complete e-waste.

But this is where the livelihood of many who are involved in burning this e-waste comes in. Never the less, the government must provide for the health standards that workers cant afford and check on those who are secretly involved in making money at the expense of innocent lives on top of threatening the natural environment.

Workers and the environment affected by the e-waste industry need protection, the experts said suggesting establishment of a special fund by rich countries to educate workers in the industry about the dangers and for law enforcement. If this happens, the dangers faced by workers can significantly decrease.

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