New Delhi: Some two-thirds of respondents to a survey across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai said they weren’t aware of rules on disposal of electronic waste (e-waste), nearly four years after they took effect.

Among the 34% of respondents who said they were aware of the rules, 12% had heard about them but didn’t know the details, according to survey findings released on Tuesday. Only 50% of the respondents knew what e-waste is.

India has been piling up mountains of electronic rubbish as consumers buy mobile phones, tablets and computer systems.

The survey, ‘What India Knows About E-waste’ released by Toxics Link, a Delhi-based non-profit working on environmental issues, polled 2,030 respondents from different economic sections and age groups across five metros.

“The rules, which mandate that e-waste should be disposed of only to authorized e-waste agencies, have not reached most people, especially in Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai, where 93%, 90% and 74% respondents, respectively, did not know anything about the legal framework and its provisions," the study said.

In Bengaluru, 52% respondents were unaware of the e-waste rules, while in Mumbai 77% were ignorant about the rules.

The study said ‘lack of awareness’ is a key reason behind poor e-waste management in the country.

In March 2016, the environment ministry notified E-Waste Management Rules 2016, replacing a 2011 version. The new rules brought producers under the so-called extended producer responsibility (EPR) concept and also have provision for financial penalty for damage caused to the ecology and any third party due to improper management of e-waste.

As per official estimates, India generates 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste a year, and it is rising at a rate of 5% a year.

The study by the NGO also revealed that as many as 61% of the respondents are ignorant about the impact of improper disposal of electrical and electronic equipment.

“If this is the awareness level in the top five cities, then imagine the situation in smaller towns and cities. Lack of knowledge regarding the repercussions of improper disposal is leading to most consumers preferring the most convenient disposal route of selling their e-waste—kabaadiwalas or illegal collectors," said Priti Mahesh, who is chief programme coordinator, clean industry at Toxics Link.

It also found that more than 50% people sell their e-waste to kabaadiwalas (local scrap dealers), a practice that is known to lead to informal recycling, causing harm to human health and the environment.

As per the study, 63% people in Delhi and 65% in Kolkata still prefer to discard their e-waste by selling it to the local kabaadiwala.

The study also said awareness of the issue was more among women than men with 58% women claiming to know about e-waste; only 45% men said they were familiar with e-waste.

“There is an urgent need to create awareness among consumers. The producers, government, and agencies responsible will have to make joint efforts to educate consumers and ensure improved compliance to rules on e-waste," said Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link.

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