As lead pollution due to increasing use and dumping of batteries is causing harm to human health and environment, activists and experts have called on the government to enact a law to address the situation.
They told a workshop that such a law should cover the battery handling, transporting and end of life management system in the country to combat the potential risks involved.
For enforcing strong regulations, Bangladesh may take lessons from countries like India, China, Vietnam and Sri Lanka that have already framed rules on battery waste management, the stakeholders pointed out.
They made the recommendation expressing concern about environmental pollution, at the virtual workshop organised by the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) in association with Pure Earth and the UNEP on Tuesday.
“It’s now mandatory to impose proper legislation for battery handling, transporting and end of life management system in Bangladesh,” reads the synopsis of the draft ‘Comparative Regulatory Review: Assessment of Regulation on ULAB (used lead-acid batteries) in Bangladesh and Recommendations for Legislation’, presented there.
Applications of these batteries include motorised vehicles, storage of energy generated by photovoltaic cells and solar energy, and back-up power supplies. The draft observed that in emerging markets like Bangladesh where power supplies are unreliable, lead acid batteries are used domestically for lighting and electrical appliances.
A recent study has spotted 59 lead-contaminated locations out of 147 battery recycling zones in six divisions of the country – Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna, Chattogram, Rangpur and Mymensingh, the workshop was told.
Also, a 2020 study of icddr,b reveals that almost half of the industry’s lead supply is sourced from used lead-acid batteries that are recycled by informal small enterprises.
“We urge the government to ensure environmentally safe management in recycling of used lead acid batteries in both informal and formal sectors. And, we can reduce risks of neurological damage children are facing,” ESDO Executive Director Siddika Sultana said.
The human body has no safe level of exposure to lead acid pollution, according to the World Health Organisation.
Director General of the Department of Environment AKM RafiqueAhammed said the government is working on this issue “seriously”. “We’ve requested the ESDO, the Pure Earth and UNEP to help make a roadmap for this issue so that we can execute it,” he added.
Already, there is a gazette notification on the used lead acid batteries, which emphasised, “No outdated or ineffective battery can be kept or dumped open in soil, water or waste disposal sites.”
Desiree Raquel Narvaez, Programme Officer at the UN Environment; Andrew McCartor, Director of Pure Earth and Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Country Director of IUCN, also addressed the workshop.