Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Manufacturers wait govt decision to take toxin back

By Razen Manandhar

LALITPUR, Jan 21[2002]:Greenpeace volunteers from Germany, Netherlands, India and other countries worked here for three months to carefully pack 6 tonnes of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) from a government-owned research centre but the government is still waiting for "donations" to begin procedures to send them back.

It needs only a letter from the government to the manufacturers that would oblige the senders to take them back into their countries at their own expenses. But the government officials say that they have to search for donations to begin the process, instead of writing a simple letter.

Bhaktiraj Palikhe, the pesticide registrar of Nepal Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), said the government is writing the request letter to the manufacturers only when the detail inventory of the total amount of POPs lying in the country. Then the government would ask for donations to send them back, he said, without giving any deadline on the completion of preparing the inventory.

According to the volunteers, CropLife, an umbrella organisation representing the largest multinational pesticide manufacturers, is offering "assistance" to Nepal government to deal with the pesticide stockpiles. They need only a request letter to show their concern over the stock of hazardous pesticides now lying unmanaged in Nepal.

"We need donations to manage the POPs and also to send them back," Palikhe said. His comments came following a press meet organised here today by Greenpeace, which gave details on the collection of date-expired pesticides from the warehouse of NARC into 98 barrels.

But Palikhe did not explain what the government would do with the donation when the manufacturers themselves are positive towards taking back the POPs.

He said that the amount stored by the Greenpeace volunteers are not the only pesticide warehouse Nepal has and any action to manage the deadly elements needs to address the whole amount lying in various parts of the country.

"The unmanaged POPs are a national problem of Nepal and our letter will address the issue," Palikhe added.

However, the environmentalists say that the POPs are stored in Amlekhgunj, Nepalgunj and several other depots in worse condition than in the capital. They say that preparing a detail inventory and managing it would take decades.

It is estimated that there are over 75 tonnes of POPs lying mainly in agriculture-related offices of the country. About one third of the waste is pesticides manufactured by Bayer and Shell with remainders being produced by Union Carbide (Dow), Sumitomo, Sandoz, Rhone Poulenc (now Bayer), Du Pont and Monsanto, among other companies, according to the volunteers.

Environmentalist Bhushan Tuladhar, the executive director of Clean Energy Nepal, said that if CropLife is ready to assist Nepal, we do not need to look out for donors. "The senders are ready to take care of it. Then why should we worry about donations?" he asked.

He blamed that the government is not ready to manage the POPs and the officers are searching for commission to prepare reports. "They are busy working in separate projects in the name of the pesticide we have not cared for the last three decades," he said.

"This actually is our duty, including the NGOs," Tuladhar said. "Now the Greenpece is here to do it for us. We should not linger the matter any more."

These deadly substances found in Kathmandu were donated to Nepal by western companies or channelled through various international aid mechanisms over the last 25 years. Obsolete pesticides pose a serious threat to the environment and the health of the people living in the vicinity of such stockpiles, said Andreas Berstorff, the toxic trade expert from Greenpeace Germany.
[Kathmandu Tuesday January 22, 2002 Magh 09, 2058.]