Tuesday 3 July 2007

Japan may use pact to dump waste

Environmental and social activist groups in the country have expressedconcern that Japan may dump toxic wastes into India by takingadvantage of the proposed comprehensive economic partnership agreement(CEPA)."We are concerned that in the proposed CEPA, toxic waste and otherbanned substances may be included in the list of goods enjoyingpreferential tariffs. This will incentivise trade of hazardous wastefrom Japan, which produces it in large quantities," said Gopal Krishna of the Ban Asbestos Network of India, an alliance of scientists, doctors, public health researchers, trade unions, activists and civil society groups.The concerns are fuelled by Japan's reputation for dumping poisonousand hazardous waste in the south-east Asian countries with which ithas free trade agreements.According to Krishna, Basel Action Network (BAN), a Seattle-basedenvironmental action group, recently complained to the United NationsEnvironment Programme that Japan was using bilateral trade agreementswith Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand to exporthazardous wastes like incinerated ash, waste oil and pharmaceutical waste.These wastes contain residues of highly toxic heavy metals likemercury, lead and traces of organic substances.Civil society groups in the Philippines have been vocal about theinclusion of toxic wastes in the trade agreement with Japan."When BAN did research on the trade pacts of Japan with Singapore, thePhilippines and Malaysia, it found that the toxic wastes were eligiblefor preferential tariff reductions. Moreover, the trade pacts hadprovisions prohibiting non-tariff measures against poisonous wastes.We hope this doesn't happen with India," Krishna said.Environmental and social groups have urged the commerce ministry notto reduce the import tariffs on any toxic technology andinternationally-controlled or banned waste and substances.The groups have also urged India and Japan to follow the provisions ofthe Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements ofHazardous Wastes, which regulates the movement of toxic waste."Due to scarcity of land Japan incinerates its municipal waste. Theash from this incineration, which can be used to make bricks, ishighly toxic. India already imports toxic waste from Japan but theproposed CEPA may open the flood gates for such toxic waste to enterthe country," said Nityanand Jayaraman, member, Collective forEnvironmental, Social and Economic Justice, Chennai.A recent analysis of trade data by Chennai-based CorporateAccountability Desk revealed that Japan exported 2000 tonnes of waste(excluding e-waste) to India between 2003 and 2006. this included 270tonnes of hazardous trash. Such items included zinc ash, lead acidbattery wastes and PVC-coated copper wires, export of which isprohibited by the Basel Convention.


By Rituparna Bhuyan

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