South Asia and the waste traders

About 98% of the world's hazardous wastes are produced in the industrialized countries, and for years, international waste traders have been able to send industrial waste from the developed countries to the Third World. Slowly, however, the waste traders are being restricted from shipping their waste to many of these countries. In 1986, only three countries prohibited waste imports. Today, the number has risen to 101.

In 1989, 69 African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries prohibited all waste imports into their countries. In 1991, a ban on the shipment of waste to countries in Africa was formalized during a convention of the Organization of African Unity.

In April 1993, an agreement went into effect among Central American countries prohibiting waste imports into the region. Also in 1993, an agreement was finalized among the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, banning waste shipments from industrialized countries to developing countries in the region.

Though Asia still remains open to waste imports, activists throughout Asia are rising up in resistance. In Southeast Asia, activists met in 1993, to develop campaigns to make Southeast Asia a waste trade-free zone, and today, Southeast Asian countries are beginning to respond to their citizen's concerns about waste dumping.

In November, 1992, the Indonesian government prohibited plastic waste imports, and it is considering expanding this prohibition to include other types of waste as well, and in August, 1992, the government of Malaysia announced a new prohibition on the import of certain hazardous wastes.

Today, because of increasing restrictions elsewhere, South Asia has become the favorite dumping ground for the waste exporters.

Plastic waste exports to South Asia have skyrocketed in the last two years. Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan received 53% of the total US plastic waste in January, 1993, excluding waste sent to China.

In 1992, Australia shipped 165 tons of metal waste to Bangladesh, and in January 1993 alone, the US sent 16.5 tons of plastic waste to Bangladesh.

In 1992, India received almost 10 thousand tons of metal waste from Britain. Germany sent almost 5 million tons of metal waste to India in 1989. In 1992, Australia shipped 1,300 tons of tin waste and plastic to India. In January 1993 alone, the US shipped almost 1,200 tons of plastic waste to India. Pepsi Cola has been shipping plastic waste to India, and in 1992 alone Pepsi shipped over 7,000 tons of plastic waste there.

In 1992, the US exported almost 2,000 tons of metal waste to Pakistan, and in 1993, Britain sent more than 2,000 tons of metal waste there. Canadian waste brokers shipped 300 tons of iron waste to Pakistan in 1992, and Australian waste traders exported 21 tons of tin waste in 1992.. In January 1993 alone, the US shipped 20 tons of plastic waste to Pakistan.

Environmentalists in South Asia are calling for the region to declare itself off limits to international waste imports, as other regions have done. If the people of South Asia are persistent, they too may finally rid themselves of the metal and plastic wastes produced in the developed countries of the world.

Environment watch