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Deficiency Regarding E-waste Management in Bangladesh

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Introduction: We are in an era where massive technological developments are changing our lives everyday. Our country has achieved a new status of developing country by UN after a lot of struggles. From 1971 to 2022, we have taken a lot of initiative for our development but still we failed to control the proper mechanisms of waste management which is a major drawback for our nation.

The Present Status of Bangladesh regarding Waste Management: Basically, the result of improper management of waste results in Environmental pollution. Bangladesh is one of the top polluters of environment around the world. According to the observation of State of Global Air Report in 2020, the position of Bangladesh was 9th in case of Air pollution which is one of the major reasons of environmental pollution.[i] And also the threatening news for us that, Air Quality Index (AQI) shows that-Bangladesh is now the most polluted country in the world where the average PM 2.5 concentration is 83.30(µg/m³) which is 8 time higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) annual mean target for safer air at 10 (μg/m3).[ii] And Dhaka is the second polluted capital city around the world.[iii] In this situation it is must to follow the laws and regulation regarding environment strictly.

The Commencement of E-waste Management Rule 2021: Department of Environment (DOE) published the Hazardous Waste (e-waste) Management Rules, 2021 under the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995. This was really an urgent need to promulgate a specific law for E-waste management to make it binding. The important provision of this rule is- the restriction to import E-waste, special concern regarding fluorescent lamps and mercury incandescent lamps, provision of management of E-waste and its disposal in systematic manner.[iv]

Observation of E-waste Management Rules 2021 and It’s Loophole: In spite of being a major provision of management of E-waste, it has some difficulties which are also important to think about those matters.

Definition of E-waste: E-waste seems like the electronics and electrical equipment under Schedule-1 according to Rule-2(4) which has lost its economic capacity, capability of using to the user. Also, it includes, the equipment which is being canceled at the time of production or remaining useless.[v] This e-waste materials include-1) Household appliance (Microwave oven, Television, Electric heating appliance etc.), 2) Monitoring and control instrument (Smoke detector, Heating regulator, Engineering or environmental survey instruments etc.), 3) Medical Equipment (Microscope, Laboratory measurement equipment, X-ray machine, Research based lab equipment etc.), 4) Automatic machine (Automatic dispenser for beverage or drink, Automated teller machine), 5)IT and telecommunication equipment (Laptop, mobile phone, scanner etc.)

Loopholes: This rule has introduced a new dimension regarding the processing, storage, manufacture, collection of e-waste. It has opened a modified version of banning regarding the import of any electric and electronic equipment under Rule-15 of this regulation.[vi] In spite of having different module, it has some lacuna which can be understood from deeper sense. Here some loopholes are described below-

Conditional Clause: Under Rule-1 of E-waste Management Rules, 2021 shall not be applied for the radioactive wastes under the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act, 2012.[vii] It seems problematic because waste is the total result of pollution crated by people in various ways.

This declination is also liable to create an impact on environment where the Department of Environment cannot be able to take any initiative regarding the radioactive pollutants of Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission. We cannot separate the environment through different division, so, it is impossible for Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission to control by themselves. Also, the question lies regarding the controlling mechanism without any cooperation with the rules and regulation of Department of Environment.

Spreading Awareness towards People and Community: The way of raising awareness towards the people is an important issue. Under Rule-3(9), raising of awareness by publication, leaflet, booklet, poster and digital way through (website, e-mail SMS) in various way for e-waste objects like[viii]

  • The information regarding electric and electronic objects and the hazardous components in those products.
  • Proper e-waste management, raise awareness regarding the risk as a result of dispose or recycle of e-waste and to conscious people under the reflection of Environment Conservation Rules 1997 so that public interest and public health is being protected.

Nowadays the social media plays an important role of publicity. But it is also taken into kind concern that all the people cannot afford the digital device and they don’t understand the information properly. Most of the people have no idea about the term ‘E-waste’ except the person related to this. So, spreading of information about the effect of electrical and electronic equipment through digitalization process can never be able to raise consciousness until it has been implemented practically. Some issues can be pointed out like-

  • Digital devices are not available to everyone.
  • Mere website, e-mail or SMS are enough to spread to everyone specially in the rural area.
  • There is no indication of seminar, meeting, workshop or public gathering where these issues can be described properly.

So, these issues are taken into kind consideration of the authority so that each and every essential steps can be taken to spread among the vast number of people directly.

The Standard of Using Hazardous Elements regarding the production of Electric and Electronic Materials: The limit of the use of hazardous substances must be followed under Schedule-3.[ix] It shall be mitigated within 5 years after adoption of this rule.

However, the exceptional clause has an inner meaning to delay the process. As environment is a great concern, every issue must be monitored properly. If government wants, they can extend the time. So, it vitiated the whole process that cannot be measured generally.

Restriction regarding the Import of old and used electrical and electronic equipment: A good decision has been adopted under Rule-15 to ban the import of old used e-waste materials from our country[x]. It seems good news for us, but the export is not banned yet. There is an indication of restricting the import, not the export. So ultimately there is a chance of violation through one process.

Again, there is a special concern of import for education and research purpose, and it has taken under consideration whether the rules are followed or not. And after purchasing in the name of research purpose, there is a possibility of using these on other purposes. If monitoring process is not strength enough a lot of people would violate these.

Application of Punishment: According to the Section-15(1) of Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995, in case of violation of the rules of E-waste, the offender shall be liable to imprisonment for a maximum period of two years or to a fine of up to two hundred thousand Taka, or to both. In case of repetition of the offense the offender shall be punished with imprisonment for a term ranging from two to ten years or a fine ranging from Taka 200,000 to Taka 1,000,000 or both[xi].

The main object of punishment is to mitigate the crime and violation of law. In case of environmental issues mere punishments are not enough if the people are not conscious. For the applicability of a law the severe effect of violation of it must be understood. Also, we all must be aware of the issue of environmental disruption. Environment is not one’s single property, it’s the existence of whole community. So, prevention is better than punishments here.

Conclusion: It is quite clear from the observation that, the E-waste Management Rule has some conflicted issues that must have to be addressed and corrected through the consultation of Department of Environment and other agencies for its proper enforcement. We are in the danger zone. And it is the duty of our government to promulgate new issues to ensure the rules regarding E-waste to clean the environment and to ensure sustainable eco-friendly infrastructure development.

Writer: Tamanna-E-Nur, Project Associate( Law), Environment and Social Development Organization(ESDO) 

Endnote: 

[i] ‘Most Polluted Countries 2021-World Population Review’, Accessed on 27 Jan 2022

[ii] ibid

[iii] ‘Dhaka suffers record 2.5 levels in 2021’, IQAIR, Last Updated 8/3/2021, Accessed on 27 Jan, 2022

[iv] YAMANOUCHI Kengo, ‘Bangladesh Publishes E-waste Management Rule’, Enviliance Asia, 22/06/2021, Accessed on 27 Jan, 2022

   Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995

[v] Rule-2, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

  Schedule-1, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[vi] Rule-15, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[vii] Rule-1, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[viii] Rule-3, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[ix] Schedule-3, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[x] Rule-15, E-waste Management Rules, 2021

[xi] Section-15, Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995

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