An improper electronic waste (e-waste) management system is putting the country's people under serious health risk and damaging the environment, said speakers at a dialogue at Jatiya Press Club yesterday.
They also demanded that the government take immediate steps to finalise the e-waste management guidelines.
“What makes the e-waste scenario even more frightening is the fact that there is no binding regulation regarding the management of these toxic throwaways,” said Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba).
Though a draft has been prepared, it is not finalised yet, said Naser, who chaired the event.
Poba and Grambangla Unnayan Committee (GUC) organised the dialogue on “Legal Framework of e-waste Management: Protection of Environment and Public Health”.
“According to the United Nations' Step initiative, 45.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2012 across the world,” said AKM Maksud, executive director of GUC.
A total of 365 crore mobile sets are being used in the country, which will be 400 crore in 2018, said Maksud while presenting the keynote speech.
Residents of the capital are generating 0.26kg e-waste per person every year on an average, he said. “We are dumping those into dustbins, roads and water bodies,” said Maksud.
He said the waste is mixing with the environment in different ways and the e-waste, which is being dumped in open spaces, creates leachate. This strong chemical cocktail eventually mixes with ground water.
According to a study, some of the very common diseases caused by e-waste are high blood pressure, fragility of bones, lung damage, kidney related diseases and mental illness.
Children are especially vulnerable to the health risks and therefore need specific protection. Exposure to toxic substances may cause irreversible damage to their developing central nervous system, immunity, reproductive and digestive systems and hamper further development.
Pregnant women are also one of the major vulnerable groups. Complications that might affect them include miscarriage, prematurity, low birth weight, congenital malformations, abnormal thyroid function, thyroid development, neurobehavioral disturbances and gene toxicity.
Prof Abdus Salam of Dhaka University said in Japan before dumping e-waste, a person has to pay the authorities concerned, and a company manages the waste systematically.
Prof Dr Ahmad Kamaruzzaman Majumder of Stamford University Bangladesh said people change their mobile sets within 16 months in the country.
Journalist Khairuzzaman Kamal, Poba General Secretary Abdus Sobhan and advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin also spoke.