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Malawi stuck with e-waste

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

The Malawi government has conceded that it is stuck with an e-waste problem, in the face of the increasing use of electronic gadgetry, including computers and cell phones. This emerged during a Global Environment fund Southern Africa (GEF) constituency meeting in Lilongwe over the weekend.

Countries from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) were meeting in Lilongwe to discuss issues pertaining to environment in readiness for a Global Environmental Fund Council meeting that will take place in June at Washington DC, USA

At the meeting, the Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management, Dr. Aloysius Kamperewera, told state owned Malawi News Agency (Mana) that such helplessness has also come about because government has no concrete plans of managing electronic waste.

At a global level, such wastes are regulated under the Basel Convention, to which Malawi is a party, said Kamperewera. However, at a national level, there is no concrete plan in place to deal with e-waste yet, since this is a new and emerging issue.

“It is expected that once the global guidelines are finalised, local efforts will be enhanced to ensure that robust management measures are in place,” said Kamperewera. He added that efforts are underway to develop a draft policy for e-waste under the e-government initiative as well as the Basel Convention on management of hazardous wastes.

There are no specific places designed for disposal of such wastes at present, he said.

Kamperewera said in the absence of the legal instruments the public, distributors and retailers of products that result in such waste better start collecting such products at the end of their lifespan and ship them back to original manufactures for safe disposal.

“Malawi does not yet have a proper facility for safe disposal of these products and other hazardous chemicals such as obsolete chemical,” explained Kamperewera. “Pesticides have been safely handled in such a manner through initiatives with companies, NGOs and other international organisations under the United Nations multilateral Environmental Agreements.”

Obsolete computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgets contain dangerous substances like lead, mercury and other dangerous substances which can lead to serious health hazards if not properly disposed of.

Said Kamperewera: “Chemicals management including mercury, lead, pesticides and expired drugs or obsolete chemicals is a big challenge because it is hardly prioritised for funding allocation by the City Councils or central government and yet it is very dangerous to our own health.”

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