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Living Green

Smartphones threaten environment and communities in Indonesia - report

Thanks to smartphones, we can now take things we usually do in computers wherever we go. Indeed, they have become essentials in people’s everyday lives.

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While they provide us convenience, what we are not aware of is the fact that they actually hurt people and the environment, said Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmental organizations in 76 countries.

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A link between smartphones and island devastation in Indonesia has been identified by Friends of the Earth in its recently released report, highlighting destruction of forests and coral reefs, and desolation of many communities as the major impacts.

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Samsung and Apple are working with companies that utilize tin mined on Bangka Island in Indonesia. “They may not have known this or about the devastating effect of mining on the island,” said Friends of the Earth.

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The report showed that tin mining in the island “ruins the landscape, leaving grey, sandy and acidic sub-soil peppered with craters where once there was lush forest.”

In some areas, people experience shortage in clean drinking water, while they also find it hard to grow crops since that soil has become barren. Additionally, doctors supposed that many of the reported cases of Malaria in the island are caused by the abandoned mines having stagnant water.

As for the marine biodiversity, silt that are generated from mining is killing seagrasses eaten by turtles and coral reefs, driving away fishes, thus affecting the livelihood of fishermen.

“Though Apple and Samsung may not have realized it, our research shows that mining tin to make both companies' smartphones may come at a terrible cost to people and the environment,” said Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins.

In 2011, Samsung sold about 95 million smartphones while Apple sold about 93 million.

To date, there are already over 5.6 billion mobiles globally and by 2017, it is predicted to exceed the number of the world’s population, noted Friends of the Earth.

Under its Make it Better campaign, the Friends of the Earth are urging smartphone manufacturers to reveal whether their phones contain tin, which are linked to environment destruction. Innovative design and better reuse of old phones could cut demand for tin,” it stressed.

Indonesia is the world’s largest tin exporter and 90 percent of its tin comes from Bangka and its neighboring island, Belitung.

Tin is an element that is widely used as solder for phones and other electronic devices, such as laptops and personal computers. – C. Dominguez

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