Vietnam gears up for Basel Ban Amendment

Vietnam gears up for Basel Ban Amendment

Philippine environmental justice group BAN Toxics together with the Research Centre for Gender, Family, and Environment in Development (CGFED) showed what’s in store in ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment in a consultation workshop held last December 3, 2013 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The workshop highlighted the myths surrounding the prohibition on toxic waste dumping, including unbridled flow of electronic waste (e-waste) from developed countries to developing countries – including Vietnam and the Philippines – through legal and illegal channels. In Vietnam, the flow of e-waste is facilitated through legally permitted temporary import and export for old electronics, and via illegal means such as loopholes in customs and cross-border smuggling.

“Vietnam is well poised to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment especially since our national law is more stringent than the Basel Ban,” explained Pham Huong Thao of CGFED. “We need to understand what is preventing our government to reflect its national policy by ratifying the Basel Ban.”

The Basel Ban Amendment, the beacon for global environmental justice, prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed countries to developing countries for any reason, including final disposal and recycling.

Part of the workshop is a sharing of experience from Malaysia and Indonesia through the Basel Convention Regional Center for Southeast Asia, after they adopted the amendment, and country case studies of the Philippines and Vietnam, focusing on the opportunities and challenges each country faces as it considers ratifying the Basel Ban.

“It has been over 15 years since the Basel Ban Amendment was introduced, and it’s high time to remove the myths that surrounded it,” explained Gutierrez. “More often than not we see the hesitancy to ratify comes from a country’s own insecurity on how it manages its own waste domestically,” said Atty. Richard Gutierrez, executive director of BAN Toxics, who gave an update about the current issues surrounding the Basel Ban

Acording to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), e-waste contains more than 1,000 different compounds, mainly metal components, heavy metals, organic substances and other toxic substances causing serious health and environmental problems.

In addition, toxins in old electronics that seeped to the environment will be hard to identify, making humans and other living organisms prone to harm that these toxins can cause. The hidden chemical potential risk of the disease are often very difficult to treat and can cause long-term effects to human health such as cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

An estimated 50 million tons of e-waste is produced each year. According to UNEP, only 15-20% of of e-waste is recycled, while the rest goes to sanitary landfills and incinerators.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal or the Basel Convention is an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous wastes between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed countries to less developed countries. The amendment was introduced in 1995 to prohibit the importation of e-waste from a list of developed countries to developing countries.

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BAN Toxics is the Southeast Asia office of the Basel Action Network

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Vietnam gears up for Basel Ban Amendment