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   380 donated computers on their way to schools in Goa (India) (fwd)              
     Patrice Riemens <patrice@xs4all.nl>                                             

   Toxic WTC Scrap Ends Up In India                                                
     Soenke Zehle <soenke.zehle@web.de>                                              



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Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2002 10:16:31 +0100
From: Patrice Riemens <patrice@xs4all.nl>
Subject: 380 donated computers on their way to schools in Goa (India) (fwd)

For once, an encouraging story from the sub-continent...


- ----- Forwarded message from Frederick Noronha <fred@bytesforall.org> -----

Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 18:06:41 +0530
To: bytesforall@goacom.com
From: Frederick Noronha <fred@bytesforall.org>
Subject: FEATURE: Computers by the containerful...



COMPUTERS BY THE CONTAINERFUL: EXPAT VENTURE SHIPS IN HARDWARE
Photo: Curious youngsters take a peek at the unusual cargo. (Photo FN)

By Frederick Noronha
fred@bytesforall.org

PANAJI (Goa), Feb 4: On the hillock between the bustling Panaji subsurb of 
Porvorim and the sleepy village of Sangolda, a flurry of activity ended 
after sunset. Some 380 computers landed there, as  the neighbourhood looked 
on with an element of surprise.

Kids played around with the bubble-packs that wrapped the computers, 
in  their long journey from New York to Goa. But, if things work out -- and 
it's not going to be easy -- computers like these could make a difference 
to the children's tomorrow.

Continuing their unusual venture, the Goa Schools Computers Project 
(GSCP),  brought in a second containerful of once-used donated PCs. in 
partnership  with the Goa Education Department. These are to be distributed 
to over a hundred schools in the state.

"(The container with the) PCs landed on January 22 and were cleared 
on  last Wednesday. We had no problems. The Customs and the Goa Education 
Department were most supportive," says Daryl Martyris, who is in his late 
twenties and was till recently a consultant with PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

Martyris is one of the expat Goans that got worked-up about the 
possibility  of expanding access to computer education in Goa. Young 
Margao-educated expat Romulus Pereira, from Navelim village, who made his 
million in Silicon Valley, was one of the many others who threw his weight 
behind this project.

Now, the Goa Schools Computers Projects (GSCP) is drawing attention 
from  within India and beyond... as an example of how concerned expats can 
team up with locals to help widen computer education back home.

Pereira is the biggest single donor for this project. "He's convinced 
about  the benefits of IT in the kids' future," says Martyris, who grew up 
in Mumbai before doing his engineering and shifting to the US.

In end-1999, a trial shipment of 97 computers were sent across in a 
20-foot  container. This month, the number was hiked to 380. Computers are 
once-used American donated equipment. But because of the high-rate of 
obsolescence in the West, only Pentium-I and above computers have been 
shipped in.

After getting Customs clearances -- it was more difficult in the past, 
when  the container landed in Mumbai instead of Mormugao -- the computers 
are to be checked and handed over to both government and government-aided 
schools who have shown a willingness to maintain them.

This idea which started on the Internet-based Goa networks some years 
ago  is, incidentally, catching on in other states too. A website called 
computersforindia.org has been set up to show others how low-cost computers 
could be legally imported for use in schools.

Expats networked with an organisation called the World Computer 
Exchange,  which accepts computer donations, and refurbishes them to 'sell' 
them at a very concessional price of US$40 each. With the PI's come colour 
monitors, some of which are a whopping 19 to 21 inches in size.

"We had to make 13 tempo trips, just shifting the computers from 
the  container (which couldn't go up the narrow, wire-overhanging road) to 
the store-house," said Ashley Delaney, who has been involved with the 
getting the PCs working and moving in the past shipment too.

"We're getting a lot of e-mails from NGOs in India, asking how to import 
such equipment for schools. One shipment facilitated by SEWA, the women's 
group, is imminent in Gujarat. We believe the Andhra Pradesh government is 
actively considering this option," says Martyris.

Due to a lack of hardware, this talent-rich, resource-poor country finds it 
difficult to get access its students need to study. This unusual means -- 
getting in computers by the containerful -- is being seen as one way out.

After spending $3500 on the container shipping, the cost of each PC is 
about $60, which is way below what it would cost a school to get purchase 
one from the market. Since the expats are funding this project through 
donations and raffles, the schools pay nothing -- other than a commitment 
to set up facilities and use the hardware to the optimum.

"We will wait till the schools can assimilate a larger number of PCs. We 
will work in tandem with the government's own plans to spread the computer 
culture in schools, by adding more computers where needed," says GSCP local 
coordinator Anit Saxena. GSCP is supported by the Goa Sudharop 
(www.goasudharop.org), a US-registered charity made up of expat volunteers.

But some have looked at the gift horse in the mouth, and have not been 
welcoming of such gifted PCs. "There's the realisation that good-quality, 
used PCs are better than no PCs, which would affect the future of our youth.

People who realise this, are supportive of the efforts," said Martyris, the 
exhaustion shown after a pre-dawn to dusk day of offloading computers and 
their huge monitors from the container. GSCP members however said they were 
thrilled with the way the Education Department is "treating us like a 
partner". Plans by the government to give every school in Goa at least one 
computer are being materialised this year itself.

The next step is to give schools access to more computers, and to use those 
installed more productively -- so that possibly even nearby villagers can 
benefit from the same, suggest the proponents of this project.

"By the end of this shipment, we'll have covered some 120 schools (some 
with  only single computers though). Most will have raised funds for their 
infrastructure," said Marytris. Saxena argues that for such a project to 
succeed, what is badly needed is a 'catalytic agent' within the school 
itself -- either in the form of the principal, a teacher or the management.

GSCP's future plans are to push for computer-integrated training -- 
meaning, the computer could be taught not just as one more esoteric 
subject, but used as a tool for students to learn other subjects in their 
curriculum, and more about their world too. (ENDS) 

- ----- End forwarded message -----


------------------------------

Date: Fri, 08 Feb 2002 10:33:56 +0100
From: Soenke Zehle <soenke.zehle@web.de>
Subject: Toxic WTC Scrap Ends Up In India

Dumping Potentially Hazardous World Trade Center Steel Debris is Danger to
People and Environment

People's Union for Civil Liberties
January 29, 2002 

Environmentalists and trade unions are up in arms over more than 30,000 tons
of possibly contaminated scrap that was shipped from the wreckage at the
World Trade Center to India. Below is a protest letter from a citizen's
group in Chennai, the port city where the scrap was sent, to local and
national officials. For more information see:

Trading in Disaster: World Trade Center Scrap lands in India
http://www.corpwatch.org/issues/PID.jsp?articleid=1608

To:

The Hon'ble Minister,
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India, New Delhi.

The Hon'ble Minister,
Department of Environment,
Government of Tamil Nadu,
Fort St. George, Chennai.

Ms. Sheela Rani Chunkath,
IAS, Chairperson,
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board,
Guindy, Chennai.

Chairman, Chennai Port Trust, Chennai.

Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai, Rippon Building, Chennai.

Sirs/Madam,

We are shocked to know that for the last one month more than 30,000 tonnes
of potentially hazardous steel and other waste scrap from the site of the
September 11th World Trade Center (WTC) disaster in New York has been
unloaded in Chennai and stored in a site in Manali. What shocks us is that
the scrap has reportedly been unloaded without proper certification as to
its safety and non-hazardous character.

We are informed that the first consignment of the scrap reportedly arrived
in early January onboard the Maltese vessel Brozna. Two other ships, Shen
Quan Hai and Pindos, have subsequently arrived with a cargo of scrap.
Reports say that the latter two vessels are said to be carrying WTC scrap.
Pindos is currently berthed in Chennai Port and is scheduled to sail on 7
February.

Although steel scrap is legal trade, the manner in which the World Trade
Center scrap was created raises concerns of toxic contamination. This is not
ordinary scrap. Everything in the World Trade Center, including
mercury-containing tubelights, carcinogenic asbestos insulation, PVC
articles, and computers was incinerated after 91,000 liters of jet fuel
ignited in the buildings. TV reports of the clearance of the wreckage showed
the US workers dressed in full-body protection and gas masks. If the US
workers required such protection, don't Indian workers also require similar
gear? Given the almost total lack of similar safety standards in Indian
ports, the immediate impact will be felt by the ill equipped workers
downloading the scrap using their hands and feet.

The matter of concern, however, is not just the issue of protective gear;
the danger is much larger than that.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is already moving to characterize the
WTC site as a Superfund (high levels of toxic pollutants) site because of
the elevated levels of poisonous substances found there. There are no safe
levels of exposure to cancer-causing substances like asbestos, PCBs, and
dioxins, or to toxic metals like cadmium, mercury and lead. Once ingested or
inhaled, these substances resist degradation or excretion and tend to build
up to dangerous levels in the body. Unless there is clearcut evidence that
the steel scrap and waste is totally free of carcinogenic and toxic
contamination, and in particular unless there are analytical reports that
prove the absence of asbestos dust/fibres, polychlorinated biphenyls,
dioxins/furans, cadmium, mercury and other toxins in the waste, further off
loading of the waste should be immediately halted and the removed waste
returned to the US.

We are deeply concerned at reports that the US Government has "overlooked"
this critical possibility and has allowed the export of potentially
contaminated scrap without adopting the required precautions in terms of
testing the scrap for contaminants prior to export, and informing the Indian
authorities accordingly. What causes still greater concern is the attitude
of the Indian authorities, notably the Customs, Port and the Ministry of
Environment officials. Though they were informed about the danger by several
trade unions like CITU, HMS and AITUC and various environmental
organisations, the Government bodies continue to slumber and remain
inactive.

PUCL demands to know whether the Government of India has ascertained whether
the US Government issued a Certificate of Safety as per the BASEL
CONVENTION, or at the least certified that the Convention does not apply,
before the government permitted the offloading of the steel and other waste
of the September 11th WTC building wreckage. If the US government had not
issued such a certificate, PUCL demands to know why M/s Sabari Exim Pvt.
Ltd, of Manali, Chennai was permitted to unload the wastes from the three
ships. PUCL also demands that further off loading of waste be immediately
stopped and the Pindos not permitted to leave Chennai port until the matter
is thoroughly investigated.

The entire episode again exposes the hypocrisy, dishonesty, and lack of
standards of the first world countries when disposing their hazardous wastes
in poorer nations. If the potential for contamination is high enough that
they cannot store the waste themselves, how ethical is it to claim the fig
leaf of open markets as a cover for exporting it? A poison is a poison,
regardless of the wealth of the person it sickens or kills.

However, such dumping is also a black mark on the Indian authorities. This
is not the first time official agencies have connived with those dumping
wastes and ignored the possibilities of deadly contamination. Under the
Environment Protection Act, it is the duty of the customs and port
authorities to ensure that all waste entering India has obtained the
requisite clearances and certificates. We have learned that this has not
taken place in this case. It is time that these officials are held liable
for not enforcing safety standards and failing to discharge their basic duty
to protect the citizens of India.

As such, we also demand that an immediate investigation be launched into the
entire affair and the public informed of the investigation's findings. If
the investigations reveal that the waste is hazardous and that officials
colluded in permitting it to be offloaded, then all the concerned officials
in various government agencies must be forthwith prosecuted for permitting
hazardous wastes to be dumped into India.

Finally, we have been informed that some of the WTC scrap off loaded in
Kandla port has already been removed and distributed without any
certification as to its safety. It is imperative that this be stopped.
Orders must also be given to seal the entire site where the wastes have been
stored until toxicity and pollution control tests are completed and a final
decision taken about the waste. Until then, further unloading must be
stopped.

We enclose a chart outlining the possible contamination of the WTC waste. We
anticipate immediate action on the issue before it becomes a major
environmental hazard.

Yours sincerely,

V. Suresh
(Dr.V.Suresh)
Secretary, PUCL-TN/Pondicherry

For more information, please contact:

People's Union for Civil Liberties
Sudha Ramalingam, Member-National Council
TN & Pondy 32
Kachaleeswarar Agraharam Street, Off.
Armenian Street
Chennai - 600 001
INDIA
Tel: 5233639
Tele-fax: 5245412
E-mail: counsels@vsnl.net


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