Uccounted batteries in State run risk of hazardous lead

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, August 13: The sole battery dealer in Assam registered with the Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) had sold 19.17 lakh new batteries but collected only 69 per cent of the used batteries against the requirement of for collecting 90 per cent of them, resulting in 3.94 lakh used batteries remaining uccounted for. This practice runs a serious risk as lead used in batteries is hazardous and requires proper handling at all stages to avoid emission of lead in atmosphere as also discharge of acid into open areas and sewages.

Battery is a source of energy and it contains lead.

In its report on performance audit on environmental degradation in the greater Guwahati area with special emphasis on the role of PCBA that was tabled in the Assam Assembly recently, the CAG said: “Concentration of lead in blood above the threshold levels can induce hypertension in adults and inhibit development in children. Therefore, disposal and recycling of batteries, wherever required, should be done in units possessing environmentally sound technology.”   

The report said: “The PCBA identified 21 battery handlers – one manufacturer, four recyclers, 14 bulk consumers, one dealer and one auctioneer – in the entire State since the Battery Rules became effective in 2001. The Battery (Magement & Handling) Rules, 2001 stipulated that it shall be the responsibility of a dealer to ensure that the used batteries are collected back as per relevant schedules…Further, the Rules also stipulate that (i) a dealer has the responsibility to get registered with the PCBA for five years and a provision of cancellation for failure in collection of the required number of used batteries as per the said Rules and or/non-submission of timely half-yearly returns to the PCBA, and (ii) renewal of the registration shall be as per the compliance status.”

However, it was observed during audit –

“During 2010-11 to 2014-15, the sole dealer sold 19.17 lakh new batteries against which 13.31 lakh (69 per cent) used batteries were collected back instead of 17.25 lakh batteries (90 per cent). Though the dealer had not collected the required number of used batteries as per schedule prescribed in the Rules, the PCBA had not taken any action as stipulated and mentioned above. On being pointed out, the PCBA agreed with the observation and said in September 2015 that the unit had been directed to clarify the reasons for not collecting the required batteries. The PCBA further said in April 2016 that the reply furnished by the dealer did not reflect the proper justification for non-compliance with provision and a reminder letter was issued to the dealer regarding the matter for further replies from them since as per the Act the dealer should be given an opportunity to be heard.  

“Out of 21 identified battery handlers, very few – 12 in 2012-13, six in 2013-14 and 12 in 2014-15 – submitted the returns to the PCBA. The PCBA took no action against the defaulters for non-submission of returns under the Environment Protection Act. On being pointed out, the PCBA said on August 2015 that notices had been issued in August 2015 to the manufacturers, registered recyclers of batteries, including dealers, bulk consumers and auctioneers for submission of returns.”

The fact remains that Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides that whoever fails to comply with any provision of the Act or the Rules made thereunder shall in respect of each such failure be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh or with both, and in case of the failure continues, with additiol fine which may extend to Rs 5,000 for every day during such failure. “But, no action in this regard has been taken by the PCBA,” the report said.   

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