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Telcos seek one year extension to implement e-waste rules

Indian telecom operators have requested an extension of one year to implement the e-waste rules, which have become effective from April 1, 2022. The rules were notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in November 2021. This is the first time that electronic equipment deployed by telecom operators has been included in the e-waste rules.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing India’s three private operators, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, wrote a letter to MOEFCC Secretary Leena Nandan, stating that the industry and its nodal ministry, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), should have been formally consulted during the formation of the rules to understand the impact on business and national network operations.

The telcos stated that network deployment is a capital-intensive operation involving short technology cycles and requires operators to constantly plan, calibrate, and upgrade their networks to address varied requirements of urban and rural environments. The COAI said there are over 7.5 lakh telecom towers across the country, and end-user equipment is deployed at nearly 10 crore customer premises.

The e-waste rules aim to regulate the disposal of electronic waste and require all stakeholders in the electronics ecosystem to collect and dispose of their e-waste in a safe manner. The rules were first notified in 2016, and the new rules will replace the older norms.

The COAI proposed that electronic products deployed in telecom networks be listed under a separate schedule/category and the implementation of e-waste rules for this schedule/category be stated as April 1, 2024, giving the telecom industry an extension of one year.

The letter also emphasised that since the telecom industry is being brought into the ambit of the rules for the first time, a thorough consultation process should be held, which includes the industry and its nodal ministry, the DoT.

The COAI’s request for an extension has come at a time when India is striving to improve its e-waste management practices. India generates around 3.2 million metric tonnes of e-waste annually, with only a small portion being recycled or disposed of properly. The introduction of the new e-waste rules aims to encourage better management of e-waste and help India move towards a circular economy. TelecomTalk

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