E-waste rules, more is required: Experts

Delhi-based Toxic Links, a key campaigner for sound management of E-waste said without monitoring and or evaluation mechanisms in place, nothing is going to change in the coming days

Managing electronic waste, (E-waste) such as old computers, CDs, television sets, mobiles, etc, is the one of the many environmental concerns of India, today. The E-waste Management and Handling Rules, notified last year by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), came into force from 1 May 2012. While by ministry's estimation, based on the survey carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), e-waste is expected to increase to about 8.00 lakh metric tonnes (MT) by 2012 from 1.47 lakh MT in 2005. Experts feel that more needs to done on the ground.

Delhi-based Toxic Links, in a release, said, "The absence of a detailed guidelines to support implementation could also be a bottleneck in implementation of these rules and requires immediate finalization and adoption by all state pollution control boards. The material is still freely flowing to the informal sector and their operations are running without hindrance. It is unlikely to change much in coming days as there are no monitoring or evaluation mechanisms currently in place from the regulators side."  Toxics Link has been a key campaigner for the policy and sound management of E-waste.

The E-waste rules, talk about the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) where it mandatory for manufacturers of electronic and electrical equipments to collect of e-waste generated from the end of life of their products by setting up collection centres or take back systems either individually or collectively.

Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link, says, "The brand may just get away by setting up only a symbolic collection system, as the rules do not specify the number of collection points or amount of collection. In a vast country like India where you need to reach out to urban as well as rural population, their "token action" will change nothing on ground. The brands have not announced any financial mechanism or incentives for the consumers to attract them to the new eco-friendly system."

However, Greenpeace feels that EPR is the only solution in managing E-waste. "Unless the producers are held liable, it is very difficult to manage the E-waste problem. One has to also look at the fact that there are toxic chemical used while manufacturing such material. Hence disposing them openly can be hazardous. EPR is the correct solution," explained Abhishek Pratap, senior climate campaigner, Greenpeace India.

According to the rules, collection centres are required to obtain authorization from the state pollution control board (SPCB) concerned within three months from the date of commencement of the rules. Similarly, dismantlers and recyclers are required to obtain authorization and registration from the SPCB concerned. E-waste generated is required to be sent to authorized and registered recyclers for environmentally sound disposal.

Collection of E-waste in India is largely done through scrap dealers. Hence monitoring is a huge task. Mr Pratap says, "There were deliberations on this particular issue. Many felt that the implementation of these rules will affect the employability of the scrap dealers. However, we feel that even they should come within the system. Only 5%-7% of the E-waste is collected in India. Scrap dealers are the best source to collect them."


Steel industry doesn’t follow environment norms, says CSE study

The poor environmental performance of the iron and steel sector is a measure of the failure of the regulatory institutions in the country. Nobody is measuring and monitoring its actual performance, says CSE

While the iron and steel sector is known as the back-bone of the Indian economy, having made a substantial contribution to growth, it also among the worst industries when it comes to complying with environmental norms, reveals an analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi based NGO, released on Monday.

CSE’s Green Rating Project (GRP) analyzed 21 top steelmakers in the country and found that the sector has not been complying with even the weak environmental norms and getting away easily due of lax regulatory and monitoring capabilities.
Bhushan Steels (Dhenkanal, Orissa), Monnet Ispat and Energy (Raigarh, Chhattisgarh), Jayaswal Neco Industries (Raigarh, Chhattisgarh), Steel Authority of India (SAIL)-Bhilai, Durgapur, Bokaro and Burnpur; Welspun Maxsteel (Raigad Maharashtra) were found to be the worst performers under the GRP.

The GRP analyzed 21 companies from iron and steel sector with over 0.5 million tonnes of annual capacity on more than 150 parameters including technology, process efficiency, pollution, occupational health and safety and compliance, etc. The project spanned over the period of two years.

While the overall sector received a 19% GRP mark, only three companies of the total 21 scored over 35% marks and were termed as ‘average’ under GRP. They were Ispat Industries, (Raigad, Maharashtra), Essar Steel (Hazira, Gujarat) and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL or Vizag Steel from Visakhapatnam).

The CSE also pulled up public sector major SAIL for non-transparency and non-compliance. Only SAIL Rourkela participated, while SAIL Bhilai, Durgapur, Bokaro and Burnpur did not participate. They were rated on the basis of available information and were found to be poor in meeting the norms.

However, according to media reports SAIL has rejected the CSE’s findings.
Sunita Narain, director general, CSE says that, “On the eve of World Environment Day, the steel sector rating is a reminder of the challenges, but also the enormous potential of bringing about change.”

She adds, “The poor environmental performance of this sector is a measure of the failure of the regulatory institutions in the country. Nobody is asking this sector to improve its green bottomline. Nobody is measuring and monitoring its actual performance. We should not be surprised.”  

The GRP rating exercise also found that that the iron and steel sector’s energy consumption of 6.6 GCal/tonne is about 50% higher than the global best practice and their process water consumption, excluding power generation, townships and other downstream operations, is a high 3.5 m3/tonne—over three times the global best practice.

“The large-scale plants were found to be highly wasteful on land. They have close to 1,200 hectares (ha) of land per million tonne of installed capacity; a well-designed plant does not need more than 200 ha. If all the residual land with steel plants were to be properly utilised, the industry can produce more than 300 million tonnes steel, not the 75 million tonnes it is producing today. In fact, the steel industry will not need extra land till 2025,” CSE found.

Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general and head of the Green Rating Project, points out, “The iron and steel sector’s score is the lowest compared with the other sectors that the GRP has rated previously. In fact, the steel sector not only has the worst pollution compliance record, it was also found to be highly non-transparent and poor on information disclosure.”

He further said, “The future road map for the sector is clear. It will have to reduce its ecological footprints drastically, invest in health and safety of its workers and treat local communities as stakeholders and beneficiaries.”


Banks continue to treat customers shabbily!

This is a story of HDFC Bank. Other banks are not any better

My wife has an auto loan with HDFC Bank. We decided to part pay the loan. I called my personal banker to ask him the minimum amount I need to pay. He told me the loan department has not yet opened for work as yet and that he would let me know in one hour! This is core banking for you. He called back within one hour as promised only to tell me that he can't access the information and I should call their call centre and ask them! So much for a personal banker, who you are supposed to contact for your 'Banking Needs".

I did not have my loan account number with me and requested him to trace the loan from my Customer ID which I thought was enough for all my transactions. They could only trace my loan through my car number and not from Customer ID-even though the EMI (equated monthly instalment) is debited to our savings account with HDFC itself. I later found out that my savings account reflects the loan account number as well.

I then got a call from loan department saying that I will have to pay 3% pre-payment charges on the amount that I wished to pre-pay. I protested saying RBI had asked banks to do away with these charges. I was told, "We have no such information and your request for waiver has been forwarded to higher authorities."

A couple of days back I got a mail saying that for making the pre-payment I would have to travel to their "loan branch" and I couldn't make the payment at the branch where my account was! I would also need to carry an authority letter from my wife to make the payment along with my wife's and my photo ID.! I asked why do they need all this when I am their client and paying money from my savings account with them? The answer was as usual "Sir this is our procedure and I can't do anything about this! Our system is like this."

Finally I went to my branch where two officials came to my rescue and accepted my cheque for pre-payment. So at the branch I do get personalized treatment, may be because I keep causing trouble to them! But what about other customers?

When liquidity is tight and banks are offering high rates on deposits should they not be welcoming pre-payments and actually offer incentives rather than asking for penal charges? Or are they saying that we have increased our cost of funds but don't know what to do with the money? If that is the case then they should reduce interest rates on deposits!

I also learnt that no charges are applicable on your at par cheques only up to a limit of Rs2 lakh per month; anything above that is chargeable. I have no idea why this is so. Banks with complete automation are expected to become customer friendly. When I was a banker, without computers we delivered better service to our customers! This also reinforces my belief that IT companies lack domain knowledge and banks themselves do not provide all information to them when they are writing the software. So the customer will be at the mercy of the banks and their systems, developed by great Indian IT companies! 


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