December 2, 2015

Imperative of E-waste Regulation

THE Nigerian environment is under threats of diverse nature ranging from oil and air pollution, toxic waste dump and other activities that are inimical to the ecosystem.

All these have impacted negatively not only on the environment but have also affected human lives. While the overall effects on the environment are immeasurable, people are known to have died of strange afflictions and ailments. Cases of uncommon diseases abound.

Unknown to many, electronic devices, including those used in information and communication technology are risky to human lives and the environment. The greatest danger lies in imported second hand electronic devices which have become a thriving sub-sector of the economy.

Used electrical and electronic equipment which are valuable for socio-economic development have brought about large volumes of electronic waste popularly called e-waste.   Some businesses, including cybercafes and educational institutions depend on these imported second hand products because they are relatively affordable.

E- waste is the fastest growing sector of the municipal waste stream but its improper handling can be harmful to the environment and human health due to its toxic components. This type of waste, according to statistics, comprises 5% of the total solid waste stream worldwide.

For instance, most of the imported second hand computers are almost at the end of their life cycle and burnt copper wires derived from such computers can cause cancer. This explains why cancer is now diagnosed even in children.   More frightening is the fact that cows feed on grasses where computer cables are burnt and fish also feed from the water where toxic wastes are dumped.

Experts have identified that the absence of electronic waste laws and regulatory framework in West Africa predisposes countries within the region to indiscriminate dumping of e-wastes from the industrialised countries of the world.

The only law in Nigeria regulating e-waste is Decree 42 of 1988, which was made even before the ICT boom in the Nigerian economy. Even though Nigeria has ratified the international (Basel) convention on e-waste, it has not been domesticated.

The National Assembly must hasten to pass laws that will upgrade and regulate electronic waste management in the country. Such laws should carry stiff penalties, and their enforcement must be professionally done in line with international best practices.

It is equally imperative to regulate the importation of fairly used electronic items into the country. No self-respecting country will allow itself to be a dumpsite for the industrial wastes of other countries.Those who deal in second hand electronic items and the general consumers should be sensitised on the harmful effects of the products. Stakeholders in environmental monitoring and protection must make more efforts to protect human lives and those of plants and animals.