‘Connivance between corrupt port and government officials’.
New Delhi: At least 38 containers containing hazardous waste consignment, including plastic waste, that were sent to Indonesia by developed countries— including by the United States of America—for dumping, but were intercepted by Indonesia and sent back before they could be unloaded in Indonesia, were dumped in India, illegally.
This has been discovered by the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global waste trade watchdog group that works towards halting illegal and inappropriate exports of hazardous wastes globally.
In the last few months, the Indonesian government decided to send back 547 containers, which it had intercepted, back to the developed nations because they contained hazardous consignments.
Out of these, 58 were to be sent back to the US, from where they had originated.
However, they never reached the US and 38 of them were diverted to India by the Indonesian authorities.
Out of these 38, 25 containers arrived at the Adani port, Mundra, Gujarat, on 6 September 2019.
The remaining 13 containers arrived at APM-Jawaharlal Nehru terminal, Mumbai, on 24 August 2019 and from there, they were taken by trucks to the Container Corporation of India, Kanpur, for further “spread”, where they arrived on 14 September 2019.
As per a rough estimate, a 40-foot dry container, used mostly in transporting goods across the oceans, can carry goods weighing almost 30,000 kg, which means more than 11 lakh kg of hazardous goods were dumped in India in the present case. India had banned the import of plastic waste in August this year.
The ease with which these containers were allowed to be unloaded in the two Indian ports clearly suggests the level of corruption and inefficiency among those who have been entrusted to stop prohibited goods from entering India.
As per BAN, these containers were shipped to India by the Cosco Shipping Line and by Maersk Shipping Line.
China had banned the import of plastic waste at the end of 2017, as a result of which used plastic started being sent to developing Southeast Asian nations like India and Indonesia.
India then banned the import of plastic waste in August 2019. However, as the recent incident shows, despite the ban, huge quantities of plastic from the developed countries is landing in India due to the connivance of corrupt port and other government officials.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Jim Puckett, Executive Director of Basel Action Network (BAN), said that they were able to track the illegal shipment movement with the help of Nexus3, which is an Indonesian NGO: “These shipments containing scrap paper contaminated with plastic and hazardous constituents did not go back to the country of origin as they should have. By the time we found out about them, they had already passed the Indian ports. We have put the story out with the belief that the Indian government would investigate the matter.”
The Sunday Guardian reached out to Mansukh L. Mandaviya, Union Minister of Shipping, senior officials of the Ministry of Shipping, top officials of Adani port, APM-JLN Mumbai and Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, seeking their responses on whether they were aware of any such shipment and, if yes, how the illegal consignment containing hazardous waste was able to enter India. No response was received from them. Sources, however, confirmed that the matter has been taken into “cognizance” by the officials of the two ports and officials of the Ministry of Shipping.
Puckett said that there was negligence on the part of government officials.
“Indonesian government was complicit in the redirect. They most likely did not notify India of the problem coming their way as required under the Basel Convention. If they did notify India and the Government of India allowed the shipment into India, they violated the plastic waste import ban of India. This warrants a governmental investigation in both India and Indonesia to find out what happened. To ensure this happens in Indonesia, it would be prudent for Government of India to demand an explanation from Indonesia,” he added.