Paragraph on Hazardous Wastes

Paragraph on Hazardous Wastes!

In the late 1980s, the media published a spate of news stories about the dumping of hazardous wastes in the developing world.


In the wake of these incidents, hazardous waste trade moved on the top of the international agenda. UNEP accelerated talks addressing the regulation of this trade, and the world’s nations debated the issue.

These negotiations resulted in the 1989 Basle Convention, which established a ‘prior informed consent’ system. The convention, adopted in March 1989, entered into force in May 1992. It was strengthened in March 1994, when the contracting parties agreed to a complete ban on shipping of hazardous waste.

The term ‘hazardous waste’ refers to material that poses a threat to human health and the environment, especially if it is not properly managed.

Such material includes radioactive wastes, polychlorinated biphenyl, pesticides, toxic incinerator ash, chemical sludge and organic solvents. An estimated 90 per cent of the world’s hazardous wastes is generated by industrialised market economies. The United States produces approximately 80 per cent of the world’s total output.


The main exporters of hazardous wastes in Western Europe have been the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and Germany. All these countries handle the major proportion of the wastes they generate. The United States handles the major proportion of its wastes domestically, exporting only 1 per cent.

About one-fifth of the total annual global trade in wastes goes from industrialised countries to developing countries, including India. Most of the Third World countries lack the technology or adminis­trative capacity to treat or dispose of the wastes safely. The only attraction of developing countries has been the low cost.

Although the bulk of the hazardous waste trade has occurred between developed countries, the issue gained on the international agenda because of the increasing numbers of illegal hazardous waste shipments to developing countries.

The Basle Convention is the landmark on this issue. Its main provisions are:

1. Hazardous waste generation is to be reduced to a minimum.

2. It provides for prior informed consent.

3. For any trans-boundary movement, it requires environmen­tally-sound disposal of hazardous wastes.

4. Any state has the sovereign right to ban imports.

5. Convention obligations apply to both recycling and disposal operations, since it also has the potential for environmental damage.

6. Developing countries are entitled to receive assistance from developed countries that are parties to the convention, etc.

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