The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on Tuesday endorsed a new draft proclamation – a bill providing for the management and disposal of hazardous waste. The bill aims at preventing potential harm caused to human health and the environment due to mismanagement of imported and locally produced hazardous waste and chemicals.
The draft proclamation includes tough legislative measures to control the importation and management of hazardous waste and chemicals, and proposes hefty prison terms of up to 15 years against violators.
As stated in explanatory documents attached to the draft bill, the bill has been drafted with a view to laying down a legal framework to control the generation, storage, treatment, recycling and reuse of hazardous waste.
The bill also prohibits transportation of hazardous chemicals unless permission is obtained from the relevant authorities. It also formulates specifications on the type of vehicles to be used to transport products deemed to be hazardous to humans or the environment.
Among obligations imposed on chemical importers or generators is providing in a local language as well as English information about the type of chemicals. In addition, importers and generators are required to record product type, date of production as well as date of importation.
Trans-boundary transportation of chemicals is another provision subsumed in the draft bill, and proposes strict rules along with serious penalties against violators.
Similarly, the draft proclamation provides for inter-state (between regions and urban administrations) movement of waste, requiring regions that they minimize shipment and disposal of hazardous waste to other regions. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change may also authorize any inter-state transportation of waste when the responsible regional environmental authority in the receiving region has expressly agreed in writing the transfer of the waste.
The waste, however, may not be transported from one region to another unless a receiving regional administration has notified its consent to the sender in writing of its capacity to recycle or dispose of the waste in an environmentally-friendly manner.
In the case of illegal importation of hazardous waste, the importer is obligated to re-export it at own cost within 90 days from the date of arrival. In addition, importation of hazardous waste without the authorization of the environment ministry would result in a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a fine of not less than 50,000 birr. The same level of imprisonment and punishment would also be imposed on importers who fail to re-export waste illegally imported
Meanwhile, a minimum imprisonment of 10 years and one million birr in fines would also be set for polluting the environment by illegally importing waste. Similarly, a rigorous punishment of a minimum of 15 years imprisonment and a fine of not less than five million birr would be assessed against those polluting the environment by illegally importing products, and failure to take rehabilitative measures as well.
After deliberating on few of the provisions, the house referred the draft proclamation to the appropriate standing committee for further inspection.
At the same session, the house also discussed another draft regulation that was presented to it by the Office of the Auditor General. The proposed regulation, “the Administration of Employees of the Office of the Federal Auditor General,” is said to help the office to supervise, administer as well as fire employees in accordance with its duties and responsibilities stipulated in its establishment proclamation as well as the constitution.
The house later referred it to the Human Resources and Good Governance Standing Committee for further scrutiny.