Chennai: Vessels carrying hazardous waste from across the world are increasingly finding their way to Indian shores, say senior customs and port officials.
Chennai and Tuticorin ports in Tamil Nadu are among the havens for such ships that bring chemical waste, waste oil, medical waste and scrap from automobiles and electronic goods. Sources say most of such ‘cargo’ come with the tag of newsprint or some other popular consignments. India registers more than 30 such cases every year, but the actual number of ships that dump waste here remains unknown.
N J Kumaresh, additional commissioner of customs at Tuticorin Port said, “Whenever we seize containers during random raids, the importer, who is supposed to receive the cargo, disappears. Since many of them use fake addresses, we are left with dangerous waste,” said the officer.
One such seizure happened in Tuticorin recently when customs officials arrested 10 containers of nondegradable municipal waste from a container imported from the UK. Recently TOI reported the case of an abandoned imported aircraft inside Chennai port after the importer did not turn up to claim the item.
It is estimated that in there has been over seven times increase in the arrival of imported waste, be it scrap, paper or e-waste in the five years spanning 2005- 2010. The value of imported waste into India jumped from around Rs 450 crore to Rs 3,900 crore in the five year period,” said D Stalin, director of Vanashakti, a Mumbai-based NGO.
Customs officials say they are understaffed. “Less than 10 officers manage the entire cargo movements at Chennai port, which needs more than 20 officers,” said a source.
Union shipping minister G K Vasan said cases are reported on and off. “We are trying to keep a tab on consignment movements at all ports,” he said. Chennai Port Trust chairman Atulya Mishra said the number of cases has come down in the past few years.
Customs department say Indian ports report 30-40 cases of hazardous waste imports every year and hundreds of such containers are lying idle
Containers flout the Basel Convention, a set of international guidelines for hazardous waste management
Customs officials catch defaulters when they go for random check. They find mismatch in document details with items actually brought inside the container
Source: The Times of India