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Govt, UNEP launch initiative for chemical, hazardous waste management

By Jamila Achakzai
January 07, 2022

Islamabad : Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir on Thursday said the government was committed to protecting the people's health and environment from devastating impacts of chemicals and hazardous waste materials through their management along scientific lines.

"The management of hazardous waste materials in improper and unscientific manner over the years in the country and their collection, treatment, and disposal of waste material have been causing significant harm to human health and the environment. But, now in the light of the PM Imran Khan’s vision for clean and green Pakistan, we have launched efforts for implementation of an overarching project for strengthening national capacity for chemical and hazardous waste management in a way that meets global guidelines to regulate the practice of hazardous-waste management for protection people and the environment of the country,” the minister told a national event here.

The event was titled 'National Inception Workshop for the Project on Strengthening of National Legislation and Capacity Building of Stakeholders for Sound Chemicals and Hazardous Waste Management in Pakistan'. It was meant to sensitise all the relevant stakeholders from national and international government and non-gove­rnm­ental organisations and industrial and educational sectors on the importance of the project.

The minister said hazardous wastes could take the form of solids, liquids, sludge, or contained gases, and they were generated primarily by chemical production, manufacturing, and other industrial activities. She said such wastes could cause damage during inadequate storage, transportation, treatment, or disposal operations.

“We [government] understand that improper hazardous-waste storage or disposal frequently contaminates surface water and groundwater supplies as harmful water pollution and can also be a source of dangerous land pollution. The minister said people settled in homes built around old and abandoned waste disposal sites could be in a very vulnerable position.

Climate Change secretary Sikander Qayyum told participants that the ministry in collaboration with United Nations Environment is implementing the project that aims to effectively implement he international conventions including Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and the Minamata for management of environmentally-harmful chemicals and hazardous materials in a scientific way.

He said the Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Basel Convention controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal. Similarly, Stockholm Convention reduce and eliminates the Persistent Organic Pollutants.

He said one of the main issue raised by the EU with Pakistan was the formulation of a policy and regulations on hazardous waste management. "As a responsible party to the Basel Convention, Pakistan will formulate the required policy for hazardous waste management by March 2022," he said.

Syed Mujtaba Hussain, Senior Joint Secretary (International Cooperation), Ministry of Climate Change said, “Chemicals and hazardous wastes possess a potential threat to human health and the environment in many ways. These chemicals and hazardous wastes are mostly non-degradable, persistent in nature, can be biologically magnified, are highly toxic and even harmful at very low concentrations.”

He stressed the need for pooling all intellectual and technical resources to cope with the challenge.

Dr. Zaigham Abbas, deputy director (chemical) at the Ministry of Climate Change, said a specialized directorate would be established in the ministry with the assistance from this project to implement all the relevant provisions of the Basel, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Minamata conventions in Pakistan. He said the ministry was closely working with industry and other relevant institutions in the country to get rid of the hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Expert Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja spoke on environmentally sound management of contaminated sites in Pakistan and shared detailed SDPI researches on the issue.

He said the SDPI had collected data of 38 contaminated sites in the 3 provinces of Pakistan. He also shared remediation efforts of a DDT contaminated site in Nowshehra, KPK and his recommendations with respect to nuclear waste water sound and peaceful disposal.

He recommended the active involvement of all stakeholders and looking into ways and means for in-time support and all time coordination among stakeholders including government ministries and their line departments, to expedite policy development and its effective implementation.