Rdhima Purwar, Symbiosis Noida
Apoorva Singhal, Ramaiah Institute, Bengaluru
J S Kaushalya, TNNLU
EDITOR: Varshita Girish, CAIL, Bengaluru
Everyone in the country remembers the tragic night of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which shook up the whole country. After this incident, the Government had enacted the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Act empowered the central government to lay down safety procedures concerning the management of hazardous substances. By laying down these provisions, the government recognized the very harmful and toxic nature of these hazardous substances if not disposed of properly. Other legislations that also govern the management of hazardous waste are the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, Indian Petroleum Act, 1934, Inflammable substances Act, 1952, Factories Act, 1948, Insecticides Act,1968 and rules of 1971, Atomic energy Act, 1962, National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 etc. 
In the age of globalization, industries have become a major contributor to the country as well as the world's economy. Hazardous waste has broadly been defined as "any waste that, by its characteristics, causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other wastes or substances." Around 36,165 industries in the country generate about 6,232,507 tons of hazardous waste each year. The most dangerous and toxic wastes are produced by big industries, refineries, petrochemicals, chemical manufacturers, textiles, pharmaceuticals, mines and production of weaponry. Improper disposal and management of these hazardous waste not only pose a threat to human lives but the environment as well.
Exposure to these hazardous substances have both acute and chronic health effects on humans. Prolonged exposure can affect various organs such as the lungs, nervous system, etc. sometimes it could even lead to death. In rare cases, these affect the future generations as well as causing various health ailments and birth defects. Threats to the environment include air pollution, water pollution, soil degradation, reduction in water quality, climate change etc.
Along with the legislations stated above, other rules that govern the management of hazardous substances includes the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989, the Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001, the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2010, the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and the latest one being the Hazardous Waste Management Rules, 2006. All these legislations and Rules may be considered as a very comprehensive code for the management of hazardous waste as they have provisions which deal with both preventive as well as mitigative measures but they are not devoid of their shortcomings either. Along with the loopholes in the laws, other social problems are lingering as well, some of which are poor implementation and zero awareness among the public about these laws and the lethal nature of hazardous waste. The major loopholes in the Law and associated Recommendations are discussed below.
LOOPHOLES IN MANAGEMENT OF HAZARDOUS WASTES:
In developing countries, the hazardous wastes have not been documented because these waste are incorrectly managed and it's complicated to manage the waste material. With so many moving parts, keeping every project up to standard can seem impossible. When the organisation was not following the regulation of the state and Centre to ensure compliance and avoid the consequence of hazardous waste. Like,
● Organizational Inefficiencies: Hazardous waste regulation mismanagement is a mess for an organisation department. If there were no one handling the waste, the issue would go unsolved, reacting to the unsolved process.
● Failed Inspections: when hazardous waste is mishandled, organizations are breaking compliance. Not abiding by laws and regulations will eventually lead to failed inspections during routine examinations.
● Risk to employees: Any exposure in the organisation due to toxic chemicals are all potential risks of mishandling hazardous waste. All these threats are posed to the employees of the organisation and other people staying in the area. Injuries, and unfortunately even deaths, can result from not complying with centre and state law when it comes to managing hazardous waste. These processes should be left to experts who are authorised to touch and move the hazardous waste to minimize the potential of risk and keep people safe.
● Environmental Hazardous: With the human risk, hazardous waste mismanagement is also very harmful for the environment.
Many countries have a raft of legislation which touches on environmental issues, often with draft legislation which attempts to focus on environmental issues. The concern is varied from country to country depending upon the legislation and the system was already in place. The need to clearly define responsibilities and to liaise between departments was also important as the management of hazardous waste covers many areas and consequently many departments:- environmental, public health, infrastructure, land.
However, in developing countries, the management of hazardous waste takes place in unregulated or uncontrolled conditions, and in some cases, hazardous waste is exported to developing countries by the developed countries. It has been established that for most parts, hazardous wastes are treated in unlicensed facilities using conventional methods such as landfilling. An important fraction of hazardous wastes is still mixed with the non-hazardous wastes, being mainly landfilled and producing serious environmental impact with the creating a great health risk to municipal workers, the public health, and the environment. The main issue affecting the hazardous waste management is, the inadequate institutional capacities, with the defective in policy, rules and regulations, infrastructure on different aspects of the collection, lacking the knowledge in the society regarding the mixing of hazardous waste with the domestic waste and commercial waste. The absence of specific policies is dedicated to the management of hazardous household waste.
The hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary) Rules, 2016 may not be sufficient to control the industry since they only lay down the procedure under how one has to handle waste produced and mentions what classifies as waste and what doesn’t. Some suggestions to improve the existing rules are given below:
· E-Portals for Form Submissions
However, even now, the paperwork and the time that takes to acquire permissions are quite stringent. Waste management is an activity in which precautions and safety measures are important. However, the numerous forms and the constant need for approval may hinder the overall functioning of an organisation. It is, of course, essential to maintain records, especially in such situations with hazardous substances involved. However, it would be preferable if the process in itself would move faster. Perhaps creating online portals could reduce the time and effort of both sides.
· Subsidised Rates for Small Quantity Generators
Another issue arises in the aspect of the funds required for testing of waste. This happens when an organisation needs to test the waste generated to ascertain whether the waste is hazardous or not. The issue here is that the testing for the waste is quite expensive. There is no particular method of testing that may be done at subsidised rates, say for Small Quantity Generators. Small Quantity Generators, as the name suggests, are those facilities that generate small quantities of waste.
In most cases, it is easy to ascertain whether or not the waste in question is hazardous based on the schedules provided in the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016. However, in some situations, testing may become essential and could cause a hindrance for organisations that cannot afford it.
· Training Provided to Workers
The Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016 require adequate training to be provided to workers during their job training as well as otherwise, these are mentioned as strict guidelines in the rules. However, the training to be provided is in the hands of the operators and those who handle hazardous waste duties in a facility.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States provides a Hazardous Waste Worker Training Programme. The training provided in Indian facilities may be regularized and become easier to modify depending on guidelines and technological changes if such training and programs are provided by the concerned authorities.
Administering the same on a large scale may not be easy. However, trial attempts on a small scale could provide insights on future programs and decisions.
· Stringent Rules
The 2016 rules are essential to ensure that hazardous waste is handled with the correct procedure. However, the issue of the Rules being too stringent is quite clear. The suggestions given above, such as that of an online portal could be of immense help as it would make accessing these forms much easier. Providing training to workers will also help in ensuring that the required standards are met.
It is quite clear that stringent rules are an absolute necessity when it comes to hazardous waste management due to the consequences in case they are not dealt with properly. Channelling the communications between the concerned authorities and the facility operators through faster portals such as through e-portals could make life a little easier on the industry. All in all, the rules of 2016 are sufficient to control the management of procedures related to hazardous waste. It is now important to ensure the improvement of the training provided, the testing of waste and most importantly the implementation of said rules.
Waste Management is an ever-growing issue that can greatly affect the environment and humankind. Exposure to these hazardous substances have both acute and chronic health effects on humans. Threats to the environment include various types of pollution, soil degradation, reduction in water quality, climate change etc. Moreover, when hazardous waste is produced, it also affects the people in its vicinity and thus must be handled with care. It is essential to have well-informed workers who are aware of the rules and their rights to be able to protect themselves and support from the government in case of any discrepancies. Waste management laws require to be changed often following the technological advancements in the field. It is also extremely important to evaluate the training programs related to technological advancements and keep the workers educated about the same.
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