New Delhi/Kathmandu: Today Greenpeace finished containing six
tonnes of dangerous obsolete pesticides exported by the world's
biggest chemical companies to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal and
made the entire stockpile safe and ready for sea transport. Several
local non-government organisations and Greenpeace activists tied a
banner reading "Toxic Free Nepal" around the warehouse in Kathmandu
where the poisons are contained.
"It's time for the chemical industry to move beyond 'responsible
care' rhetoric and take genuine responsibility for its products
from cradle to grave. Greenpeace is inviting the companies that
made these pesticides to come and retrieve this toxic waste and
dispose of it safely in the country of origin," said Greenpeace
toxic trade expert, Andreas Bernstorff.
More than a dozen Greenpeace activists from India, Germany,
Switzerland and the Netherlands, together with Nepalese
agricultural technicians, started cleaning up the toxic waste, that
had been abandoned in dangerous conditions on the outskirts of
Kathmandu, three months ago and completed it this month.
Approximately one third of the waste is pesticides manufactured
by Bayer and Shell; the remainder were made by Union Carbide (Dow),
Sumitomo, Sandoz, Rhone Poulenc (now Bayer), Du Pont and Monsanto,
amongst other companies. The deadly substances found in Kathmandu
were donated to Nepal by Western companies or channelled through
international aid mechanisms over twenty five years ago. The site
is one of several locations in Nepal where obsolete pesticides have
piled up as result of oversupply.
Pesticides found at the site in Kathmandu include a highly toxic
chlorinated organomercury compound, Agallol 3, manufactured by
Bayer, which was never registered in Germany. In spite of that,
according the Nepalese officials, these consignments were sent to
Nepal around 1970 in order to open markets. 30 years later, the red
dust from the broken and rotting containers of Bayer's mercury
compounds was contaminating the entire site which is located at the
heart of the drinking water catchment area of Kathmandu.
In 1999, Bayer refused requests for help from the Nepalese
government with containing the existing stockpiles. As a result of
the Greenpeace campaign, Bayer has now offered "assistance" via its
global umbrella organisation 'CropLife' but has not committed
itself to taking any concrete steps. Now the Nepalese government
has to respond to 'CropLife' and ensure the chemical industry
removes all obsolete pesticides from the country, of which there
are at least 75 tonnes.
Shell's dieldrin, which is a deadly nerve poison for animals and
humans and also persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment,
was banned in industrialised countries as early as the mid
seventies. In Nepal it was found in rotten bags and spread all over
the floor of the Kathmandu warehouse. The dangers of dieldrin have
been known to Shell at least for 25 years but the company continued
sales and exports to developing countries until 1991.
"Shell also bears the responsibility to identify, contain and
remove the toxic pesticides for safe disposal in the country of
origin," said Eco Matser, Greenpeace Netherland's Toxics
Campaigner. "Shell, Bayer and other chemical companies cannot
expect the Nepalese government and taxpayers to pay for this. These
companies made the profits, now they need to pay for clean up and
safe disposal of their unwanted products," he added.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
bans the use of dieldrin globally and calls for the elimination of
existing stocks of these and other chemicals with similar
An estimated 500,000 metric tonnes of obsolete pesticides have
been abandoned world-wide, mainly in developing countries. They are
usually stored in similarly poor conditions, often in residential
areas or even next to schools. Greenpeace is calling on the
industry to compile a full inventory of all stockpiles of obsolete
pesticides around the globe and to take full logistical, technical
and financial responsibility for their retrieval and safe disposal,
in line with the regulations of the Stockholm Convention. (1)
VVPR info: Photos and BETA SP video footage of the obsolete pesticide stockpile in Nepal and the Greenpeace clean up activity are available from the Greenpeace International press desk.
Notes: (1) The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), adopted by world governments in May 2001, bans the production and use of POPs, including dieldrin, and calls for the safe disposal of existing stocks of these and other chemicals with similar characteristics. It also states that such chemicals should be disposed of using technologies that do not create or release POPs, which indicates that incineration technologies should be avoided.