Toxic Dumping: Destination India

New Delhi, November 4, 2003:

India has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the biggest consumer in the world of a highly toxic and deadly substance: mercury. What’s more appalling, while the world is dumping mercury on us, we have neither bothered to regulate its trade and use, nor inventorise its stocks in the country.

Imports of mercury to India have registered a six-fold increase in seven years: this has been brought to light by recently released data of the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S), Kolkata. While the world is phasing out mercury and mercury products, we are phasing them in. At a Conference on Mercury Pollution in India organised on November 3, 2003 in New Delhi by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Sunita Narain, Director, CSE said that this data emphatically pointed to only one thing: that India was rapidly becoming the world’s most preferred toxic dump for mercury.

According to the DGCI&S, between 1996 and 2002,
• Mercury imports to India more than doubled from 254 tonnes to 531 tonnes
• Organomercury compound (pesticides, slimicides etc) imports increased a whopping 1,500 times from 0.7 tonnes to 1,312 tonnes
• Imports of mercury containing products increased – for instance, mercury vapour lamp imports rose from 2,100 to 0.12 million and thermostat imports increased from 1.73 million to 2.51 million
• Total imports of mercury and mercury compounds thus jumped from 285 tonnes to 1,858 tonnes – more than six times in seven years