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Daily Current Affairs 04.06.2022 (New opportunities for e-waste recyclers, Keep ESZ of 1 km around forests: SC, May services PMI hits a 133-month high)

Daily Current Affairs 04.06.2022 (New opportunities for e-waste recyclers, Keep ESZ of 1 km around forests: SC, May services PMI hits a 133-month high)

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1. New opportunities for e-waste recyclers

Draft rules in public domain for consultation

Over the next five years, Delhi-NCR-headquartered Attero Recycling, one of India’s largest electronic waste management companies, expects to invest close to $1 billion in expanding their electronic waste recycling facilities.

More than 70% of it is for setting up operations in Europe, the U.S. and Indonesia to recycle lithium-ion batteries premised on the increasing share of electric vehicles in future. Nitin Gupta, co-founder and CEO of the firm, says that while lithium batteries may be the future for the company, the present is hinged on the growing number of e-waste that his factory in Roorkee is processing.

Credit, he says, is due to the mandatory recycling targets set for electronics-goods makers under the Electronic Waste Management Rules, 2016. From 30% of sales in 2018, firms are expected to recycle 70% of sales by 2023.

“Prior to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regime, recyclers like us had to pay to procure e-waste. We extract the precious metals and sell them. The informal recyclers use hazardous methods and therefore were able to do this at a lower cost. Even if their recovery (of metals) was low, their costs were low and so profitable. Now with the EPR regime, it’s Original Equipment Manufacturers who are paying for recycling and a lot more is collected in the formal sector,” said Mr. Gupta.

Last month, the Union Environment Ministry unveiled a set of draft rules that further incentivises registered electronic waste recyclers.

The crucial difference from the 2016 rules is the generation of EPR certificates. The latest e-waste rules are yet to become law and the Environment Ministry has set a 60 day-period for public consultation.

Recyclers on processing a certain quantity of waste would be given a certificate verifying this number by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Electronics goods companies can buy these certificates online from the CPCB to meet their annual targets.

Recyclers can also directly contract with a company to recycle a certain quantity of waste and generate certificates that can be accessed from the CPCB.

The challenge is verifiability. How for instance, does the CPCB verify that the certificates indeed guarantee the quantity of e-waste recycled. Prior to the EPR scheme, State pollution control boards were expected to be conducting checks on recycler. In the new regime, said Mr. Gupta, this verification would be done via “software matching.” A recycling company would be paying a certain amount of Goods and Services Tax annually based on the quantity of precious metal they’ had extracted and sold, said Mr. Gupta, and this would correlate to the amount of e-waste processed. This could be further matched with the certificates bought by a producer firm to meet targets.

Independent experts say that verifying the actual quantity recycled is next to impossible as none of the data — how many electronic goods were sold and how much e-waste is generated and how much recycled — is available in public domain.

e-waste

E-waste or Electronic waste is any electrical or electronic equipment that’s been discarded. This includes working and broken items that are thrown in the garbage or donated to a charity reseller, their components, consumables, parts, and spares.

E-waste is particularly dangerous due to toxic chemicals that naturally leach from the metals inside when buried.

It is divided into 21 types under two broad categories:

  1. Information technology and communication equipment. Examples: Cell phones, Smartphones, Desktop Computers, Computer Monitors, Laptops. Circuit boards, Hard Drives
  2. Consumer electrical and electronics. Examples: microwaves, heaters, remote controls, television remotes, electrical cords, lamps, smart lights, treadmills, smartwatches, heart monitors, etc.

Leftover technology:

Today, a growing amount of e-waste is not considered only to be products that have stopped working or become obsolete.

Technology is advancing at such a fast pace that a lot of electronic devices that still work fine are the ones considered obsolete. The updated versions of the devices replace the older ones which then become e-waste.

Harmful effects of e-waste:

Electronics contain toxic substances – therefore they must be handled with care when no longer wanted or needed.

The consequences of improper e-waste disposal in landfills or other non-dumping sites pose serious threats to current public health and can pollute ecosystems for generations to come. When electronics are improperly disposed of and end up in landfills, toxic chemicals are released, impacting the earth’s air, soil, water, and ultimately, human health.

Effects on Air quality:

Contamination in the air occurs when e-waste is informally disposed of by dismantling, shredding, or melting the materials, releasing dust particles or toxins, such as dioxins, into the environment that cause air pollution and damage respiratory health.

Chronic diseases and cancers are at a higher risk to occur when burning e-waste because it also releases fine particles, which can travel thousands of miles, creating numerous negative health risks to humans and animals.

The negative effects on air from informal e-waste recycling are most dangerous for those who handle this waste, but the pollution can extend thousands of miles away from recycling sites

The air pollution caused by e-waste impacts some animal species more than others, which may be endangering these species and the biodiversity of certain regions that are chronically polluted. Over time, air pollution can hurt water quality, soil, and plant species, creating irreversible damage to ecosystems.

Effects on Soil

When the improper disposal of e-waste in regular landfills or in places where it is dumped illegally, both heavy metals and flame retardants can seep directly from the e-waste into the soil, causing contamination of underlying groundwater or contamination of crops that may be planted nearby or in the area in the future. When the soil is contaminated by heavy metals, the crops become vulnerable to absorbing these toxins, which can cause many illnesses and doesn’t allow the farmland to be as productive as possible.

Effects on Water

After soil contamination, heavy metals from e-waste, such as mercury, lithium, lead, and barium, then leak through the earth even further to reach groundwater.

When these heavy metals reach groundwater, they eventually make their way into ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes. Through these pathways, acidification and toxicity are created in the water, which is unsafe for animals, plants, and communities even if they are miles away from a recycling site. Clean drinking water becomes problematic to find.

Acidification can kill marine and freshwater organisms, disturb biodiversity, and harm ecosystems. If acidification is present in water supplies, it can damage ecosystems.

Effects on Humans

Electronic waste contains toxic components that are dangerous to human health, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium, and lithium.

The negative health effects of these toxins on humans include brain, heart, liver, kidney, and skeletal system damage. It can also considerably affect the nervous and reproductive systems of the human body, leading to disease and birth defects.

Improper disposal of e-waste is unbelievably dangerous to the global environment, which is why it is so important to spread awareness on this growing problem and the threatening aftermath.

To avoid these toxic effects of e-waste, it is crucial to properly re-cycle, so that items can be recycled, refurbished, resold, or reused.

Concerning global data on e-waste

  1. 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year
  2. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver.
  3. A large number of what is labeled as “e-waste” is not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery.
  4. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled.
  5. E-waste leads to data theft hence adding to security woes.

E-waste and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an outline for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all 17 goals and 169 targets were set to be achieved in the next 13 years.

The environment is an integral part of each of the goals, with e-waste specifically linking to a number of these targets. Increasing levels of e-waste globally pose challenges for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Hence it requires an efficient approach and coordinated action by the UN system to support the countries in their efforts to manage their e-waste in a sustainable manner and to minimize the creation of e-waste.

SDG Target 3.9: By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.

SDG Target 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

SDG Target 8.8: Protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular, women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

SDG Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

SDG Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water, and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

SDG Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, repair, recycling, and reuse.

Important international agreements related to e-waste:

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS (MARPOL)

MARPOL addresses pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; sewage, garbage; and the prevention of air pollution from ships.

THE BASEL CONVENTION ON THE CONTROL OF TRANSBOUNDARY MOVEMENTS OF HAZARDOUS WASTES AND THEIR DISPOSAL (1989)

The Basel Convention aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, transboundary movements, and disposal of hazardous and other wastes. Among key provisions of the Basel Convention are environmentally sound management, transboundary movement, waste minimization, and waste disposal practices aimed at mitigating adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The Nairobi Declaration and decision IX/6 was adopted by the 9th meeting of the conference of the parties to the Basel Convention in 2006 and gave a mandate to the secretariat of the Basel Convention to implement a work plan for the environment sound management of e-waste.

MONTREAL PROTOCOL ON OZONE DEPLETING SUBSTANCES (1989)

The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty that aims to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production and use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). ODS, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) as refrigerants are still used in some refrigerators and air conditioners. Waste refrigerators and air conditioners will also likely contain CFCs or HCFCs.

UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK ON CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (UNFCCC)

Although not directly involved in e-waste, UNFCCC has been active as part of the e-waste from toxic to the green initiative. Through the initiative, waste pickers in India have been trained to collect electronic waste, such as computers and mobile phones, for safe disposal and recycling.

ROTTERDAM CONVENTION ON PRIOR INFORMED CONSENT PROCEDURE FOR CERTAIN HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS AND PESTICIDES IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE (1998)

The Rotterdam Convention promotes shared responsibilities in relation to the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. It also calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, to include directions on safe handling, and to inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.

THE DURBAN DECLARATION, 2008

The declaration called for an African regional platform/forum on e-waste alongside international bodies. The requirements of the declaration are as follows: countries must review existing legislation, improve their compliance with legislation and amend existing legislation regarding e-waste management.

E-waste generation in India

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18.

But the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 7.82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.

In 2018, the Ministry of Environment had told the tribunal that 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose of it by burning or dissolving it in acids.

E-Waste Management Rules, 2016

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 by replacing the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011.

  • Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule. It included Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury-containing lamps, as well as other such equipment.
  • For the first time, the rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for the collection of E-waste and its exchange.
  • Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation(PRO) and ensure collection of E-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
  • The Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
  • The role of State Governments has been also introduced to ensure the safety, health, and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
  • A provision of penalty for violation of rules has also been introduced.
  • Urban Local Bodies(Municipal Committee/Council/Corporation) has been assigned the duty to collect and channelize the orphan products to authorized dismantlers or recyclers.
  • Allocation of proper space to existing and upcoming industrial units for e-waste dismantling and recycling.

2. Keep ESZ of 1 km around forests: SC

Court directs govt. to maintain eco-sensitive zone to protect natural resources

The Supreme Court on Friday directed that every protected forest, national park and wildlife sanctuary across the country should have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of a minimum one km starting from their demarcated boundaries.

Environment Ministry guidelines show that the purpose of declaring ESZs around national parks, forests and sanctuaries is to create some kind of a “shock absorber” for the protected areas.

These zones would act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to those involving lesser protection.

A three-judge Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai and Aniruddha Bose, in a 60-page judgment, highlighted how the nation’s natural resources have been for years ravaged by mining and other activities. The judgment, by Justice Bose, observed that the government should not confine its role to that of a “facilitator” of economic activities for the “immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the State”.

The State also has to act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to the natural resources so that sustainable development could be achieved in the long term.

“Such a role of the State is more relevant today, than, possibly, at any point of time in history with the threat of climate catastrophe resulting from global warming looming large,” Justice Bose wrote for the Bench.

The judgment came on a petition instituted for the protection of forest lands in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, the scope of that writ petition was enlarged by the court so as to protect such natural resources throughout the country.

In a series of directions, the court held that in case any national park or protected forest already has a buffer zone extending beyond one km, that would prevail. In case the question of the extent of buffer zone was pending a statutory decision, then the court’s direction to maintain the one-km safety zone would be applicable until a final decision is arrived. The court directed that “mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted”.

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) are also known as Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs).
  • Eco-sensitive zones are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • As per the National Board for Wildlife NBWL, the delineation of eco-sensitive zones have to be site-specific, and the activities should be regulative in nature and not prohibitive unless required.
  • The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries to minimize the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

Eco-Sensitive Zones Background

  • National Wildlife Action Plan NWAP 2002-2016 indicates that the area outside protected areas networks are vital ecological corridor links and must be protected to prevent the isolation of fragments of biodiversity which will not survive in the long run.
  • Section 3 of the Environment protection rules gives power to the Central Government i.e. the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to take all measures that it feels are necessary for protecting and improving the quality of the environment and to prevent and control environmental pollution.
  • However, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • Besides, Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) states that the central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carry on certain operations or processes on the basis of certain considerations.
  • To meet this objective, the government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be/ not be carried out subject to certain safeguards.
  • However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be carried out or shall not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Thus, the government came up with the concept of Eco-Sensitive Zones.
  • The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Extent of Eco-Sensitive Zone

  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area, as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • In case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even areas beyond 10 km width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.
  • Moreover, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around, and it could be of variable width and extent.

ESZ Significance

  • Areas declared as Eco-Sensitive Zone would minimize the impact of urbanisation and other developmental activities.
  • The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management, through which local area communities are also protected and benefitted.
  • The Eco-sensitive zones around protected areas,  wildlife sanctuaries and national parks create some kind of ‘Shock Absorber’.
  • ESZs help in in-situ conservation, which deals with the conservation of an endangered species in its natural habitat, for example, the conservation of the One-horned Rhino of Kaziranga National Park, Assam.
  • Eco-Sensitive Zones minimize forest depletion and man-animal conflict.

Activities Permitted

  • Activities Permitted under Eco-Sensitive Zones –  On going agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.
  • Activities prohibited under ESZs – commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), the establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Activities under regulation-  Felling of trees, the establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.

3. May services PMI hits a 133-month high

‘Jobs still shrink as sentiment stays subdued on inflation pressures, continued drop in global orders’

The S&P Global India Services PMI Business Activity Index for May signalled that the country’s services sector may have recorded its best monthly expansion in more than 11 years, with the survey-based PMI gauge rising to 58.9 last month from April’s 57.9. A reading higher than 50 indicates growth.

Services providers reported the quickest increase in business activity since April 2011, with new orders rising at the highest rate since July 2011, even as input cost pressures quickened at the fastest pace since the survey started in December 2005.

May marked the 23rd successive month when firms reported rising input prices, led by higher food, fuel, labour, material, retail and transportation costs, compelling them to raise selling prices at the second-highest rate in almost five years.

Despite stronger domestic demand, service providers still shed jobs in May, as global orders fell for the 26th month in a row since the COVID-19 lockdowns of March 2020, and sentiment remained low on concern inflation may dent the recovery.

Within services, consumer services was the brightest spot even though it also faced the highest surge in input costs. Transport, information and communication services firms passed on higher costs to buyers at the fastest pace.

‘Price outlook worsens’

“The reopening of the Indian economy continued to help lift growth in the service sector [but] the inflation outlook appeared to have worsened as input prices rose at the sharpest pace in the survey history,” said Pollyanna De Lima, economics associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Ms. De Lima noted that output charge inflation eased only slightly from April, being the second-highest in just under five years, as several firms mentioned the need to transfer mounting costs through to clients.

“Elevated price pressures continued to restrict business optimism. Despite picking up from April, the overall level of sentiment among service providers was historically subdued,” Ms. De Lima concluded.

The S&P Global India Composite PMI Output Index, which factors in both services and manufacturing sectors’ performance, rose to 58.3 in May, from 57.6 in April, marking the fastest rate of expansion since November 2021.

“Aggregate cost burdens rose at the fastest rate since March 2011,” S&P Global said in a note. “Concurrently, output charges at the composite level rose further, with the overall rate of inflation little-changed from April’s nine-year high.”

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