Do you ever wonder, what happens to your discarded TV, laptop, mobile phone and where these electronic devices go and how these devices pose a threat to human and environmental health?
The electronic equipment you throw or sell as scrap becomes an electronic waste or e-waste because they had lived their lives. In Pakistan, scrapers also known as kabadeya collects this waste to separate their parts and sell the working parts to the refurbishers, who polish and fit those parts in a new casing to sell out as 2nd hand equipment in the markets. The broken or unwanted parts are transferred to the recyclers, who use informal methods to extract precious metals from these electronic parts such as burn the wires to extract copper and to drown boards in acid to extract gold, silver and other metals. These methods are so environment unfriendly and even carried out without wearing a proper safety Equipment that exposed the involved workers to toxic chemicals released during recycling. This waste is dumped in Pakistan openly along with municipal waste from where the pollutants can leach from the e-waste and enter the environment.
This waste is different from traditional municipal solid waste and requires proper handling and disposal because of its hazardous potential to cause devastating effects on both environmental and human health. Therefore, handling of e-waste is very expensive and requires proper disposal sites. The developed world exports its electronic waste to poor nations to save their disposal cost.
For rich countries, Pakistan is one of those dumpsites, where they export a large quantity of their obsolete electronic devices. This e-waste enters in Pakistan through Port of Qasim in Karachi. From there it is sold to various markets, recyclers and scrapers in different cities of Pakistan.
However, according to the Pakistan environmental law, it is prohibited to import any kind of hazardous material into Pakistan territory. But it seems that mafia involved in this business illegally import the e-waste of other countries into Pakistan. The lack of implementation of regulation and government interest and easily available of cheap workers encourages these mafias to continually import hazardous waste without care about their effects on the environment and human health.
Pakistan government will have to act quickly and strictly to stop Pakistan from becoming a waste dump site for the developed world and long-term planning is needed to sustainably handle the hazardous waste generated in Pakistan. Currently, there is only one sanitary landfill in Pakistan which has been constructed in Lahore, but that too is not a solution for the current problem.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.