Pesticides Sent as Aid to Nepal Now Toxic Waste

KATHMANDU, Nepal, October 18, 2001 (ENS) - Greenpeace efforts to contain a stockpile of obsolete pesticides on the outskirts of Kathmandu, have been successful and are nearing completion, the environmental organization said Wednesday.

The pesticides have been stored in rusting and rotting original packaging in a warehouse at the National Agricultural Research Council. Greenpeace says the toxic waste is threatening the health of residents, workers and livestock in the area as well as local water supplies, irrigation systems and soil.

DDT

Drums of old DDT, Nepal, 1998 (Photo courtesy Greenpeace/Jayaraman)
The pesticides were exported to the country by multinationals such as Bayer, Sumitomo, Sandoz, Shell, Rhone Poulenc, Du Pont, Union Carbide (Dow) and Monsanto and abandoned there after they reached their expiry date or were banned.

Greenpeace is asking the pesticide manufacturers to remove the pesticides from Nepal and ensure it is disposed of safely.

"These stockpiles of obsolete pesticides are ecological time bombs," said Greenpeace toxic waste expert Andreas Bernstorff. "For these companies to abandon these toxic poisons with a total disregard for the health of local people and the environment is shameful. This would not be allowed to happen in the West."

The most dangerous substances found at the Nepalese site, says Bernstorff, originate from the German chemical company Bayer. These include toxic chlorinated organomercury compounds, banned for use in the European Union since 1988. Despite requests to Bayer for help from the Royal Nepalese Government, the company has refused any support.

Greenpeace workers carried five kilograms of the Bayer organomercury compounds to the German embassy in Nepal Wednesday morning and requested German political support to ensure that a solution would be found for the safe disposal of the toxic waste outside Nepal. The German ambassador "agreed to do all he can," Greenpeace said.

pesticides

Greepeace worker investigates pesticides stored at the National Agricultural Research Council warehouse. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
Wearing full protection gear and breathing masks, a dozen activists from India, Germany and the UK, together with Nepalese agricultural technicians, have spent the past two weeks making the warehouse safe. They are containing the all the poisons, including a thick layer that has built up on the warehouse floor, in high density barrels and hundreds of small containers, sachets and bags and are making them ready for sea transport back to their countries of origin.

More than 70 tons of obsolete pesticides exist in seven known locations around Nepal. The stockpiles include banned pesticides such as dieldrin, chlorinated organomercury compounds and DDT, which were manufactured and imported to Nepal by Western multinationals some 20 years ago.

All the pesticides were donated to Nepal or channeled through international aid mechanisms in order to open markets. Cleanup workers found at least two containers of dieldrin at the Kathmandu stockpile marked "American Consulate, Calcutta."