Health Impact of Hazardous Waste Trade Under Scanner
Bali: The ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal commenced on Monday 23 June, 2008. The Convention was initiated in response to numerous international scandals regarding hazardous waste trafficking that began to occur in the late 1980s and continues till today.
The key issues to be considered by COP9 include: the 2009-2010 programme of work; a budget for the Basel Convention trust funds for 2009-2010; a recommendation for improved cooperation and coordination between the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions developed by the Ad Hoc Joint Working Group on Cooperation and Coordination; initiating a process to develop a successor arrangement for the Strategic Plan beyond 2010; agreeing to an approach towards reaching an agreed interpretation of paragraph 5 of Article 17 of the Convention( and entry into force of amendments ); and initiating a process leading to an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention at COP11, in accordance with paragraph 7 of Article 15 of the Convention.
Review of the implementation of decisions adopted at COP9 included discussions on a recommendation of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) to establish a new Basel Convention Regional and Coordinating Centre (BCRC) in South Asia. This has been proposed by India at COP3 and COP6.
The Secretariat introduced the documents on ship dismantling: Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of ship dismantling (UNEP/CHW.9/34); report of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (UNEP/CHW/INF/28); compilation of comments on the ESM of ship dismantling (UNEP/CHW/ INF/29); and a document submitted by the Basel Secretariat to the MEPC (UNEP/CHW/INF/30).
Delegates elected Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra, State Minister for the Environment (Indonesia), as COP9 President by acclamation. He underscored the theme of the conference "Waste Management for Human Health and Livelihood," noting the impacts of hazardous waste on people and nature. He said the illegal traffic of hazardous waste showed no sign of decreasing and the generation of such waste was increasing.
Environmental groups demanded that remediation of beaches of their toxic contamination in India and Bangladesh where ship-breaking activity takes place is a pressing need to retrieve and protect the fragile coastal environmental and public health of communities and their livelihoods.
Environmental groups sought establishment of level of control equivalent to that of the Basel Convention. The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Basel Action Network and the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association expressed concern that the proposed IMO convention would not have the same level of control. A contact group that was established to discuss the draft decision on ship dismantling did include equivalent level of control in its document.
In her statement to COP 9, Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention too reiterated "to the IMO the importance of ensuring that the new ship recycling Convention provides an equivalent level of control as that established under Basel Convention. The final negotiations International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, under the auspices of IMO will take place in October 2008, prior to its adoption by the Diplomatic Conference in May 2009.
Peiry stressed better Coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. She hoped that COP9 would place the Basel Convention firmly on the international agenda and reaffirm its implementation as a prerequisite to sustainable development.Other important issues being delibereted include Basel Ban Amendment that was adopted in 1995, the interpretation of Article 17(5) of the Basel Convention and the entry into force of the Ban Amendment, the final adoption of the guidelines of the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative and Technical Guidelines on the Environmentally Sound Management of Mercury Wastes and used tyres.
US is the only developed nation that has failed to ratify the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal that was adopted in Basel, Switzerland in 1989. The Convention entered into force on 5 May 1992.
India has ratified it but the ongoing illegal traffic of the hazardous ships underlines that it is not implementing the treaty. The Convention was at first condemned by environmentalists and developing countries as it failed to ban hazardous waste exports to any location other than Antarctica.
Till recently developing countries and environmentalists succeeded within the Convention in achieving a decision to ban hazardous waste exports from the wealthiest to less wealthy countries.
But with India and US not having ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which forbids outright the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries, the Basel Convention is struggling to appear prtogressive. At a crucial meeting here Sri Lanka and Thailand in some ways saved the Basel Ban Amendment, which was sought to be made impotent by Japan, UK and India.
The conference would conclude on 27th June, 2008. The conference on Hazardous Wastes concerned about emergence of new waste streams in the wake of globalisation and complex technologies.