No POPs No PCB


CURRENT STATUS OF PERSISTENT ORGANIC
POLLUTANTS (POPs) IN BANGLADESH

1. Introduction

As POPs have only recently been exposed as a hazard to environmental and public health, the general population is unaware of the basic problem. This ignorance has led to the grave position which we are now in and it is the belief of the  Environmental and Social Development Organization that we need to develop solutions to the ongoing problems.

This study describes the present situation of POPs in Bangladesh, especially dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), PCB and Dioxin. These three are mostly used as  agrochemicals and pose a great hazard to human health and environment. Though the  Bangladesh government restricted the production, import, distribution and use of all these  compounds, there is still significant use of these chemicals hidden behind different names and labels. DDT is still used in disinfectant and PCB is still used widely in power sectors as a carrier.
Dioxin has uses in food and plastic industry.
“Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)” can be described as these organic substances are:

  • Persistent
  • Poses toxic characteristics
  • Bioaccumulation in food chain
  • Prone to long range Trans-boundary atmospheric transport and deposition
  • Likely to cause significant adverse human health or environmental effects near to and
    distant from their sources

2. Background

ESDO prepared this study paper to document the present status of POPs (DDT, PCB and
Dioxin) usage in Bangladesh. All the tasks that are done for preparing this document are under  a partnership agreement between Just Environment Charitable Trust, Toxics Link and ESDO.  Anthropogenic activities have invented and released a significant quantity of toxic and hazardous metals, organic and inorganic chemicals into the land, sea and air. Among all of  those pollutants, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can be categorized as the most  hazardous. In recent decades, vast numbers of POPs have been produced and used worldwide. Many are still in production and used in everyday products, especially in  agrochemicals. These chemicals have become widespread environmental pollutants.  As Bangladesh is a developing country, contamination from these pollutants has the potential  to do more harm for our environment and population. Bangladesh lacks the newer  technologies to limit pollution levels, so therefore prevention is required to reduce the  production and usage, as well as the source, of the pollutants.

3. POPs in Bangladesh

Agriculture is the main occupation (about 66.5% of total labor force) of the people of  Bangladesh. So the use of persistent agro-chemicals is one of the most important sources of  contamination here. The use of POPs pesticides in agriculture dates back to the mid 1950s in  Bangladesh, which began with the application of Endrin in modern rice cultivation in around  1955. Three metric tons of Endrin was received in 1955. Subsequently other pesticides were  also received. All the pesticides registered or legally marketed in Bangladesh are imported  mostly from China, India, USA, U.K., and Japan. Bangladesh does not manufacture any of the  active ingredients in pesticides. However, Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC)
did manufacture DDT until 1992. Also, some agricultural pesticides, aerosol and mosquito coils  are locally formulated out of the active ingredients imported from abroad.

At present all POPs like DDT, PCB, Dioxin, Furans, heptachlor etc have been banned, but  unfortunately there are at least 5 of these substances still used in this country under different name or label. Therefore, to speak documentarily, at present there is no legal use of any POP pesticides in Bangladesh.

4. Bangladesh Government Initiatives and Policies
Bangladesh government has cancelled the registration of all POPs pesticides; in fact all
authorizations for chlorinated hydrocarbons for pesticide use have been withdrawn. The
production of DDT was discontinued in the 1991. Moreover, the government has listed fifteen
pesticides as being banned, namely:

I. BHC
II. Chlordane
III. Dieldrin
IV. Dicrotophos
V. Disulfoton
VI. Endrin
VII. Ethyl Parathion
VIII. Isobenzene
IX. Methyl Parathion
X. Methyl Bromide
XI. Methoxychlor
XII. Posmet
XIII. Phospamidan
XIV. Monocrotophos
XV. Kalthane

The last POPs pesticide in use, Heptachlor, was banned in 1996. The Bangladesh Government  enacted the Bangladesh Ecological Conservation Act 1995 “for conservation, improvement of  environmental standards and control and mitigation of environmental pollution”.  The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has signed the Stockholm Convention  on Persistent Organic Pollutants on 23 May 2001, after actively taking part in the negotiation process leading to the final Convention. As a party and signatory nation to the Stockholm  Convention, Bangladesh have taken actions on the following activities:

  •  Generate awareness of the harmful consequences of POPs to reduce their release
  •  Create legal bindings for their ultimate elimination

The last POPs pesticide in use, Heptachlor, was banned in 1996. The Bangladesh Government  enacted the Bangladesh Ecological Conservation Act 1995 “for conservation, improvement of  environmental standards and control and mitigation of environmental pollution”. The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has signed the Stockholm Convention  on Persistent Organic Pollutants on 23 May 2001, after actively taking part in the negotiation  process leading to the final Convention. As a party and signatory nation to the Stockholm  Convention, Bangladesh have taken actions on the following activities   Generate awareness of the harmful consequences of POPs to reduce their release  Create legal bindings for their ultimate elimination encouraged Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and educational institutions to attend
and raise awareness about the program on POPs and other vital environmental issues.

The Department of Environment (DoE) and the Ministry of Environment (MoEF) are the lead  agencies working on policy implementation and regulation the POPs National Implementation  Plan. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), other  government divisions’ related to health and environment safety and policy generation,  regulation and implementation work together to legislate the POPs status in Bangladesh. Government initiatives were very limited and that was concentrated only within the Dhaka City.

5. ESDO Initiative on POPs Awareness
Considering the limited initiatives of government regarding the POPs issue, ESDO took the initiative to mobilize a country-wide awareness campaign and created a network namely BPEN  (Bangladesh POP Elimination Network). ESDO is focused on raising awareness about environmental anthropogenic hazards such as:

  •  The use of lead in decorative paints
  • Mercury usage in medical and non-medical products
  • Waste hazards from electronic products

ESDO has conducted initiatives for creating awareness in the general public and influencing the policy makers of government on POPs issue. A roundtable was organized with  government, non-government key personnel and the media who work on POPs to make an  outline of proposed activities that should be carried out to benefit the natural environment of Bangladesh. ESDO has a program on “Environmental Education” where there is particular emphasis provided on knowledge sharing about industrial pollutions caused by anthropogenic activities  (where a particular importance is given to POPs issue). We also publish the below leaflet to raise public awareness.

6. Media reports on POPs Poisoning
In Bangladesh, POPs remain a fringe issue in the print and electronic media. In the past the only cause for reporting in the media has been for cases of acute poisoning. The long term impacts of POPs are consistently neglected in Bangladesh media. ESDO has been attempting  to shift the focus of the media onto the issue, in an attempt to prevent and protect the population from POPs related health hazards. ESDO believe that the print and electronic media in this country require the vocal support of the government so they feel they can freely publish reports against the offenders. In the past,  the media has demanded that strict legal action is necessary against major industrial and  municipal polluters and violators of the environmental and preservation laws. However despite these occasional calls for action, there is still a distinct lack of coverage. There should be more dissemination of information through the news and electronic media. Mass public
awareness of the issue is essential to reduce the usage of POPs.

7. Recommendation from Stakeholders
The participants of the stakeholder meetings have recommended and proposed the following activities for the elimination and impact minimization of POPs:
Strict legal demands such as ‘polluter pays’ laws – the people of Bangladesh already bear the health and environmental costs of POPs pollution, and must not bear the economic cost of its eventual clean up and disposal. A ‘polluter pays’ approach is one of the most realistic approaches. By this, potential and established polluters will be more hesitant to import and distribute and even sell these products.

Precautionary Principle – taking preventative action when there is reason to believe that harm is likely to be caused by human activity. Action should be taken even where there is no conclusive evidence to prove a causal relationship between the actions and their effects.
Elimination of all POPs sources – POPs elimination is a two-step process to:

  • Source identification, followed by source elimination. Firstly the source of POPs  must be properly identified and;
  • Phased out, replaced or otherwise removed.

This is true for POPs that are produced intentionally as well as unintentionally, such as dioxins.

Technological and other resource assistance – It is critical that the global POPs treaty includes measures to discourage wealthy countries from promoting and exporting POPs-generating technologies and materials to newly industrialized nations. At the same time, measures must be included to encourage wealthy countries and aid programs to assist newly industrialized countries in developing and implementing POPs replacement technologies and materials.
 ‘No to Incineration’ – as a disposal route for existing POPs stockpiles since incineration itself has been identified as a major source of dioxins and furans. While so called state of the art incinerators can greatly reduce stack emissions, they still cannot stop the formation of dioxins and other POPs which may be present in the fly ash and bottom ash that would still require further treatment and disposal. Alternative destruction and detoxification methods and technologies which do not generate POPs should be used instead.

For the conservation of the environment of our country, it is our responsibility to mitigate the effects of pollution by showing respect the government rules and regulations. We must remember that we have only one country and one planet to live in. We must follow the laws and conserve the environment to save our country. The survival of humanity will  depend on how we treat the environment.



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