KATHMANDU, Dec 9: Amid rising fears of the possible catastrophic impact of a huge stockpile of pesticides stored at more than two dozen locations in Nepal, the German government has expressed readiness to take back the obsolete chemicals for disposal.
The country has a total of 74.23 tons of different chemicals including DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and 43 cylinders of methyl bromide imported for agriculture proposes from Germany 25 years ago.
The pesticides have since been stockpiled at 25 different places including Amalekhgunj, Nepalgunj, Gulariya, Surkhet, Khumaltar, Lumle, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Hetauda, Birgunj, Janakpur, Pakhribas and Gaighat. Most of the pesticides have been kept at government offices located in the vicinity of human settlements and pose a threat to humans and the environment.
Of the total stockpile, 50 tons has been stored at the godown of the Agricultural Inputs Company Ltd (AICL) in Amlekhgunj.
A high-level source at the Ministry of Environment (MoE) said the German government has shown its eagerness through the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) to permanently dispose of the pesticides in Germany if the Nepal government accumulates the pesticides at one single point from the different storage sites.
“We are looking for funds for transportation of the chemicals to Amlekhgunj - the largest stockpile - from 24 other places before handing them over to GTZ-Nepal for transport back to Germany,” said the source.
The government has not allocated any funds in the current budget for disposal of the pesticides. “We are hopeful that transportation of the pesticides back to Germany will be completed within six months if the Nepal government makes proper arrangements to accumulate the chemicals at one place -- that would be Amlekhgunj,” said the source.
Some donor agencies such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have also extended a helping hand to Nepal for safe management of the obsolete chemicals.
The source said the cost of complete disposal hovers around US$ 5,000 per ton.
The pesticides have to be disposed of at temperatures of 1,200-1,500 degrees Celsius at an incinerator plant equipped with Air Pollution Control Devices (APCD) -- a facility not available in Nepal.
Nepal has signed the Stockholm Convention and the Rotterdam Convention, which ban the use of certain chemicals and provide for the disposal of these chemicals by producer companies in the source countries. However, most of the companies that supplied the chemicals to Nepal have already closed down.
Different human rights groups and social organizations have been requesting the government for the safe disposal of the chemicals.
The Persistent Organic Pollution (POP) Enabling Project has been working to ensure proper management of the chemical stockpile with the assistance of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
However, the project has only been able to complete proper sealing and recording of the chemicals with clear identifications.
Responding to a Supreme Court order about three months back, the government expressed its commitment to completing the entire process of disposal of the chemicals within a year.