India leads resolutions on pollution at Geneva

Delegations from a number of Government of India ministries attended three separate conventions on chemicals and waste pollution in Geneva that included - the 14th Conference of Parties (COP) to the Basel Convention, the 9th COP to Rotterdam Convention, and the 9th COP to Stockholm Convention

May 10, 2019

The theme was “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”

India has imposed a complete prohibition on import of solid plastic waste into the country

India has also made an international commitment to completely phase-out single-use plastic

The Basel Convention adopted partnership on plastic that will help prevent illegal dumping

Delegations from the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, along with those from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, and that from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology attended three separate conventions on chemicals and waste pollution in Geneva from April April to May 10. The meetings included the 14th Conference of Parties (COP) to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (COP 14), the 9th COP to Rotterdam Convention on the Consent Process for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and the 9th COP to Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The theme of the meets this year was “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste.”

At the Basel Convention, two leading issues were decided upon – (i) Technical guidelines on e-waste; (ii) Inclusion of plastic waste in the PIC procedure. The draft technical guidelines had specified conditions for when used electrical and electronic equipment destined for reuse, repair, refurbishment or failure analysis should be considered as non-waste. India had major reservations regarding these provisions as in the name of re-use and refurbishment, there was a chance of dumping from developed world to the developing countries, including India, amid growing consumption of electronic equipment and waste worldwide.  

India strongly objected to the proposed decision on these guidelines and did not allow it to be passed by the COP. Several rounds of talks under the aegis of the Convention Secretariat addressed India’s concerns that were supported by a large number of developing countries. On the final day of the COP, a modified decision was adopted in which all concerns raised by India were incorporated. These were related to – (i) Dumping of e-waste; (ii) Recognition of issues in interim guidelines, especially related to distinguishing waste from non-waste; (iii) Adoption of guidelines on interim basis only; (iv) Extension of the tenure of the expert working group to address concerns raised by India; (v) Usage of interim guidelines to be done only on a pilot basis.

Owing to the intervention by India, it was possible to defend the nation’s interest against the potential dumping of e-waste by developed countries. This also opened a window for further negotiations in the interim technical guidelines on e-waste. Another achievement of COP 14 was the decision to amend the convention to include unsorted, mixed and contaminated plastic waste under the PIC – Prior Informed Consent – procedure and improve the regulation of its transboundary movement. This is a significant step taken towards addressing plastic pollution which has become a major environmental concern across the globe. The Basel Convention also adopted partnership on plastic that will help prevent the illegal dumping of plastic wastes.