Pakistan's Pesticide Pollution Problem
20 years ago, a ban was placed on a range of highly toxic pesticides in Pakistan. While they cannot be bought, sold or used, the vast amount that remains in the country continues to pose a risk. Blacksmith has been assessing and identifying polluted hotpots in Pakistan since 2009 and the pesticide problem has emerged as one of the country’s biggest concerns -- there are 935 pesticide storage sites littered across Pakistan, where the banned toxins have been kept for the past two decades, and many are in poor condition.
Pesticides in old and disintegrating plastic and steel drums have started to leak and contaminate the surrounding ground and water at many storage sites. The problem is especially worrisome along the border, where vast amounts of Afghan refugees have crossed over to take shelter.
This summer, Blacksmith will take the first step towards solving this problem. Working with Pakistan’s Environmental Protection Agency and Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Blacksmith is organizing a National Toxic Action Plan workshop that will gather top-level government officials together to prioritize sites for cleanup and identify sources of funding.
“We’ve laid the groundwork with previous regional workshops that drew representatives from almost every province,” said Bret Ericson, the program director for Blacksmith's Global Toxic Site Identification Program. “So we know there is a real commitment and desire to solve the problem. Now by getting everyone together on a national level, we can make this happen.”
Thanks to nationally syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer for writing about our work. We certainly do not see ourselves as heroes but Ms. Geyer's support means a lot to us. By raising awareness, she is helping us widen our reach to clean up more of the world's worst polluted places. (download pdf of article)
Blacksmith in Armenia, Peru, Mexico and Uruguay
As part of Blacksmith's Global Toxic Site Identification Program, workhops were recently conducted in four countries to familiarize local investigators, government officials and other stakeholders with the site assessment protocols Blacksmith uses and to provide opportunities to share ideas.
In Armenia, the primary pollution issues stem from metals mining, obsolete pesticides, and the illegal burning or dumping of hazardous waste in municipal landfills. Workshop participants conducted test assessments at a dump and also conducted sampling at a restaurant near the site.
In Peru, workshop participants visited a community where high levels of lead have been found in children mainly due to illegal battery recycling activities. Government officials shared with Blacksmith their National Environmental Action Plan, which includes setting a strategy to target legacy pollution.
In Uruguay, workshop participants visited a settlement in Montevideo located close to a legacy industrial waste dumpsite, where there were electrical wire burning activities being carried out illegally as well. Government officials were interested in Blacksmith’s help on remediating contaminated sites.
In Mexico, workshop participants visited a chromium polluted site, which is currently being cleaned up. Mexico government officials have been very supportive of Blacksmith activities in the country.
Blacksmith Addresses Leather Industry
In February, a leather industry group criticized Blacksmith's listing of tannery operations at #5 in the 2011 report on the world's worst toxic pollution problems, calling the report's conclusions "sensationalist." Blacksmith responded and this opened the door to a deeper coversation with the industry. Working with all parties is crucial to securing change. Read Blacksmith's open letter in Leather magazine international.
The iPad and 6 Million Tons of E-Waste
Jack Caravanos, Blacksmith expert and Hunter College professor, was just back in Ghana, where he was trying to introduce the use of a simple "machine" that would allow e-waste recyclers to extract copper from wires without burning them and releasing toxic fumes. (Watch a Ghanaian news report about the project.)
The burning of e-waste has blackened and poisoned the landscape of Ghana's Agbogbloshie market, which locals call Sodom and Gomorrah. Time magazine reporter Bryant Walsh pointed to Jack's post about the notorious e-wasteland in The Pollution Blog when he wrote about the latest iPad. As new devices replace old ones at an almost alarming pace, much of the six million tons of e-waste generated eventually makes its way to Agbogbloshie.
Jack's effort to stop the burning of e-waste will not solve the pollution problem, but it will make life for those working and living in the market much less dangerous.
Blacksmith Institute works in some of the world's worst polluted places to solve
pollution problems and clean up contaminated sites in order to save lives.
Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 40 projects in 19 countries.
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