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Beyond Regulation: Hazardous Industrial Wastes and Environmental Justice in India

Authors: Pratyusha Basu*, University of Texas at El Paso, Jayajit Chakraborty, University of Texas-El Paso
Topics: Environment, Hazards and Vulnerability, Asia
Keywords: industrial development, environmental justice, hazards, waste, India
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


India’s 2009 inventory of hazardous waste production and management demonstrated how an international agreement on global waste transfers, the Basel Convention, could be leveraged to obtain information regarding within-country waste production. Alongside, it revealed a highly uneven waste landscape as a few locations, mainly in western and southern India, were responsible for the bulk of hazardous waste production. Thus, environmental injustices sought to be ameliorated at the global scale by the Basel Convention asserted themselves within the national realm. Given this, the question that arises is whether a global attempt to regulate transboundary flows of waste can contend with local concentrations of hazardous wastes. This paper addresses this question by comparing two sites of hazardous industrial wastes in India: the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 whose associated hazardous wastes fester without recourse to justice in national or international forums, and the state of Gujarat’s coastal industrial belt whose hazardous wastes become invisible under its economic prominence. Using news media and activist representations, this paper analyzes how environmental injustices related to hazardous waste production become immobilized within local contexts and contrasts this immobility to the notion of waste production as a space of flows. Given the global ascendancy of neoliberal ideologies, it is worth considering whether the dumping of waste in economically and socially marginalized communities can be ameliorated through global and national policy-making. Instead, this paper will consider how a locally informed ethic of environmental justice could be one way forward.

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