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Sri Lanka ships imported waste back to Britain

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Following a two-year-old battle, India’s neighboring country Sri Lanka has started to ship as many as 240 containers of hazardous waste back to Britain. This shipped waste also includes body parts from mortuaries.

What was the case or battle?

Britain had shipped nearly 100 containers to Sri Lanks in the year 2017 which the Sri Lankan government last year asked to take back. The containers which were exported to Sri Lanka by Britain contained plant parts, plastic clinical waste, used cushions and mattresses, waste, and other hazardous and uncategorized waste.

There were complaints of the foul and horrible smell emanating from the containers. It was in July 2019 that these containers were inspected, following which, a writ application was filed by Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) against the illegal activity.

What were the issues raised by Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) in its writ application?

The petition filed by Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) addressed critical environment-related issues. Most of them revolved around problems such as severe threats to the health of the general public and severe damage to the environment of the country. The CEJ made a statement indicating that the population of Sri Lanka will be exposed to several health risks and problems because of the pathogens in the clinic or other waste which is included in the imported waste and that it could also have some serious negative impacts on the biodiversity of the country.

Another part of the writ application stated that the waste was imported without any adherence to the terms and conditions of the BASEL Convention. BASEL convention regulates the terms as per which Sri Lanka has restricted and limited the practice of importing hazardous waste from other countries.

But out of everything in the world, why does Sri Lanka import waste material?

The British Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as BBC, in 2019, published a report stating that a few wealthy and developed nation from the west ship their waste materials to developing countries across the world. They follow this practice because it is cheaper for them to and it also helps these nations to meet their recycling targets. Apart from that, exporting waste reduces the burden on the domestic landfills in the developed nations. 

And the only logical reason behind other developing nations importing waste is money. For developing nations, the activity of taking in waste acts as a source of income.

But, several times they counter problems with the quality of waste that is being shipped. Often it contains contaminated plastic and rubbish which gets mixed with the recyclable material. This eventually ends up in illegal processing centers.

The report by the BBC, also shows that apart from Sri Lanka there are several other Asian countries that are angered by and furious about the dumping of waste disguised as material meant for recycling by a western country.

Earlier also, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia have also reported similar incidents of sending back containers of waste to bigger countries like the United States and Canada.

What is the current situation between the countries and what will now happen?

A consignment of 21 containers that were exported without lawful measures to Sri Lanka was received by England on October 28, 2020.

Now, we are waiting for the Environment Agency of the United Kingdom to confirm the types of illegal waste that was exported along with the consignment. It will also conduct its own investigation to find out who shipped it and the responsible individuals may end up facing repercussions. Their punishment may include an unlimited fine, a custodial sentence of up to two years, and the recovery of money and assets received because of the course of the illegal activity.

 

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