How the traditional journey of e-waste, from both domestic and overseas sources, in north India leads to health hazards and high levels of pollution

Electronic waste from as far away places as the United Kingdom and the United States ships its way to a cheek-by-jowl populated area in East Delhi Seelampur to be hammered, torn apart, chipped away and segregated.

From hard drives, to ipods, television sets, computer screens, dvd roms to mobile phones, everything is up for treatment in this unorganised market.

Motherboards are the most popular items for segregation as they contain the most precious minerals.

Gold, silver, aluminium, copper and brass, all are found in abundance on the electronic items.

“In the past, there used to be computers alone but today there are also laptops and LCDs. So the future looks good,” says the owner of a godown in Seelampur engaging in this business since a decade.

From here, the segregated items are ferried by the truckloads beyond the border to Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.

An overview of the town reveals piles of e-waste on every single terrace with families including children working away at them.

After hammering out the bigger chunks of metal, blue gaseous flames are shot at motherboards to melt the finer particles to separate them from the motherboard.

The final process takes place at the river where the ashes are washed and sieved to recycle the material back into the same industry.

Direct human touch causes several health hazards such as various types of cancers, damaging the brain, kidney, reproductive organs, causing bronchitis and asthma.

A kilogram may fetch Rs. 200 to Rs. 350. “We don’t throw anything, even dust is sold,” says Nazim, a worker.