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Pesticide Bomb Against The Poor: Pesticide Wastes Have been in Developing Countries Since Colonial Times

October 12, 1999 - Information (Danish newspaper)

Opinion by Jørn Jespersen (SF), chairman of Environment Committee, Danish Parliament
(translated from the Danish)

People and environment in a number of developing countries, not the least in Africa, are threatened by lurging environmental bombs in the form of leaching drums and containers with pesticide remains and other environmental poisons. UN estimates that at least 100.000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides are stored in developing countries. The pesticides are often banned in the industrialised part of the world and may have been imported entirely legal and maybe even with economic assistance from Western development organisations. They may have been exported under the guise of humanitarian aid from rich countries despite that the date marked for their useful appliance was near expiration - hidden dumping of a waste product. Other pesticide remains have been in the developing countries for more than a generation, back from colonial times. It is about time to clean up this legacy !

Through Danida, Denmark is supporting a project in Mozambique aimed at collecting leaching pesticide dumps around the country in order to prevent environmental damage and health hazards. It is a commendable project and there is reason to welcome the fact that the efforts so far now have resulted in that the pesticides have been collected and secured as far as possible. Now the question is: what should now happen to the pesticides that have been collected ?

Resistance and protests.

Originally it was the intention to refit an existing cement factory in the outskirts of the capitol Maputo with Danish technology in order to allow the high temperatures in the ovens, theoretically, to destroy the pesticides which are basically chlorinated pesticides, with the possibility of the building of dioxins in the proces. However, local resistance and international environmental organisations have led to that the authorities in Mozambique have halted this part of the project in order to investigate alternatives to destruction at the cement factory. Thus, now there is a serious opportunity for the pesticides to be returned to the sender/producer which in turn must see to that the pesticides are destroyed at their costs.

In an answer to SF the development minister recently informed that a meeting has been held between the agricultural ministry of Mozambique and GCPF, which represents 90% of the Worlds pesticide producers. Later on, GCPF have confirmed that they will contribute 1 dollar per kg pesticide which has to be destroyed and technical assistance with regard to avoidance of the occurance of new, outdated pesticides. It is a very positive development.

However, I find it important that the pesticide industry is convinced that they should take full responsibility for all pesticides. GCPF represents according to themselves 90% of the pesticide industry, and it seems reasonable to ask that they assume full responsibility after Danida has financed the securing of the pesticides in Mozambique.

SF will therefore ask the minister for development to contact the minister for development in the EU and his EU-collegueas in order to produce an European strategi for the management of outdated pesticides in the developing countries. This strategy should contain the following elements:

* A coordinated effort to ensure outdated pesticides in the developing countries, including the collection into secured sites;

* Disposal of the pesticides in plants in the EU;

* Establishing dioxinfree destruction capacity as alternative to traditional incineration plants (the technology exists outside the EU);

* An increased effort in relevant conventions, like the Basel Convention concerning transport of hazardous waste. The Rotterdam Convention concerning the trade in pesticides and other hazardous chemicals and the negotiations on an UN Convention on the socalled POPs;

* By the widest possible means to ensure full responsibility of industry in order to prevent repetitions. Full financial liability for the securing and disposal of obsolete pesticides;

* support for the use of land without the use of pesticides in developing countries.


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