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Toxic waste/E-waste: UN human rights expert to visit India

GENEVA (8 January 2010) – UN Special Rapporteur Okechukwu Ibeanu will visit India from 11 to 21 January 2010 to examine and report on existing problems linked to the unsound management and disposal of hazardous products and wastes, including electronic waste (e-waste), and their adverse effects on human rights. Mr. Ibeanu will visit the country at the invitation of the Government.

“I intend to focus on the adverse effects that shipbreaking activities may have on the enjoyment of human rights of the countless individuals who work in the shipbreaking yards or live in their close proximity,” said the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.

“Shipbreaking is an important industry for India, since it represents an important source of raw material supply and provides jobs to thousands of persons. Nevertheless, I continue to be concerned at the reportedly poor working practices and environmental conditions prevailing in most shipbreaking yards in South Asia,” the UN expert added.
The latest annual report of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council, submitted in September 2009, focuses on the adverse impact of the shipbreaking industry on the enjoyment of human rights*.

Mr. Ibeanu will also examine the risks posed by the unsound management and disposal of e-waste to the human rights of individuals and communities that depend on the recycling of materials contained in obsolete electronic products for their subsistence.

“E-waste is one of the most hazardous waste streams worldwide,” stressed the UN expert. “Electronics contain over 50 hazardous chemicals or heavy metals that can cause serious health and environmental risks if not disposed in an environmentally safe manner.”

The Special Rapporteur will hold meetings with Government officials, local authorities, relevant UN agencies, civil society organisations, trade unions and the private sector. Apart from the capital, Delhi, Mr. Ibeanu will visit Alang and Mumbai to assess the dangers that the shipbreaking industry and e-waste landfills pose to local communities and the environment.

Based on the information collected during the visit, the Rapporteur will prepare a report and make recommendations on how to protect the human rights against the threats posed by the unsound management and disposal of toxic and dangerous products and wastes. His report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in 2010.

Okechukwu Ibeanu, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004 by the Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

(*) See the report on shipbreaking (A/HRC/12/26): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/12session/reports.htm