E-waste poses health threat to Pakistanis, says UN study

Published June 16, 2021
Karachi is the major location for e-waste recycling and dismantling in Pakistan. — Reuters/File
Karachi is the major location for e-waste recycling and dismantling in Pakistan. — Reuters/File

UNITED NATIONS: Pak­is­tan is among 15 countries where electronic (e) waste dismantling and recycling is considered a major health hazard, says a UN report released on Tuesday.

India, however, is among the three countries where the e-waste recycling is most prominent. Brazil and China are the other two.

All three major South Asian nations — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — are among the worst affected by the e-waste.

The 2021 UN report — “Children and digital dumpsites” — warns that the “health of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide is at risk from the illegal processing of old electrical or electronic devices.”

The report, released simultaneously in New York and Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, is being called a landmark study on the toxic threat.

According to this report, Pakistan produced 433 kilotons of e-waste last year. India, being one of the top three digital recyclers, produced 3,230 kilotons of e-waste. But India does have a national e-waste regulation policy, while Pakistan is still working on it.

Locations of informal e-waste dismantling and recycling sites inside Pakistan: Karachi is the major location for e-waste recycling and dismantling in Pakistan. In 2014, an estimated 12.46 kilotons of old computers were imported into Karachi from various countries.

Several areas in Lahore are known to be involved in e-waste recycling. E-waste is often dismantled and recycled inside rooms, with little ventilation. E-waste recycling, dismantling and refurbishment are also undertaken in Faisalabad, Gujra­nwala and Peshawar.

The report, however, noted that “very little is known about e-waste recycling in these areas.” It is believed to be on a smaller scale than that in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2021

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