Berlin South Asia Talks
This year, the Department of South Asia Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin is launching the Berlin South Asia Talks, a format for the discussion of pressing regional issues that is to be held biannually within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Weeks. The Berlin South Asia Talks will bring together representatives from the spheres of politics, business, academia and nongovernmental organizations to pose and debate highly topical and controversial questions concerning South Asia. Panel discussions will alternate with open formats that include the Berlin public and experts from diverse fields.
For the Berlin South Asia Talks, the Department of South Asia Studies, headed since summer 2010 by Prof. Dr. Michael Mann, is seeking the participation of high-level experts as well as the cooperation of partner institutions which are actively pursuing or contributing toward solutions to the problems presented. In the long term, we intend to establish the Berlin South Asia Talks as a fixed component of the Asia-Pacific Weeks. We aim to draw the attention of the media and attract an expert audience along with interested members of the Berlin public.
Berlin South Asia Talks 2011
In 2011 the Berlin South Asia Talks are devoted to the subject of informal recycling in India – an issue that not only threatens people and nature in India, but also involves us here in Germany. We will introduce and discuss the problem, and debate possible solutions.
Habitat Forum Berlin will present an accompanying exhibition.
Health Hazards of Informal Recycling
Every year, 20-30 million tons of electronic scrap is generated worldwide, posing dangers to human health and the environment. This e-waste includes discarded computers, televisions, refrigerators and radios. It contains valuable materials like gold, palladium, silver and copper, as well as such toxic substances as lead, cadmium and mercury. Improper recycling practices lead to toxic emissions, which in turn poison the air, water and soil.
India produces approximately 400,000 tons of hazardous waste annually from personal computers, cell phones and old television sets. The greatest proportion of electronic waste comes from large cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, where a complex, informal infrastructure has arisen around the recycling of e-scrap. Collectors eke out a living from this trade, but the profits go mainly to the dealers of the e-waste.
This business is subject solely to the laws of the market. And “informal recycling” is extremely hazardous to human health. A 2004 study showed that, for example, the burning of printed circuit boards releases dioxins. Dioxins increase the risk of cancer among the workers and nearby residents. Via the air, they enter the groundwater and the food cycle. But the problem of e-scrap in India is not an exclusively homemade problem. By illegal channels, e-waste from Europe, Australia and the USA also winds up in Indian garbage dumps.