Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir said that incumbent government is committed to protect public health and environment from devastating impacts of chemicals and hazardous waste materials through their management on scientific manner.
Addressing a national event here on Thursday, the state minister noted that 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 had 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,” Zartaj Gul Wazir revealed.
She explained that hazardous wastes can take the form of solids, liquids, sludges, or contained gases, and they are generated primarily by chemical production, manufacturing, and other industrial activities. They may cause damage during inadequate storage, transportation, treatment, or disposal operations, the state minister added.
“However, we 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 state minister for climate change highlighted, “People settled in homes built around old and abandoned waste disposal sites may be in a particularly vulnerable position.
While addressing the event “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”, Climate Change Ministry Secretary Capt. (Retd.) Sikander Qayyum, told participants that the climate change 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.
The event aimed 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 today here at a local hotel, the secretary added.
He highlighted that 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.
The secretary Capt. (Rted) Sikander Qayyum, credited this achievement of becoming successful responsible party to these Conventions and appreciated to progress with rest of the countries. He said, “The credit goes to the International Cooperation Wing, Ministry of Climate Change for their persistent efforts to make it happen.”
The secretary informed the participants of the workshop that Pakistan was granted GSP+ in 2014 while the current GSP plus Regulations is set to expire at the end of 2023. Pakistan has already shown its commitment to maintain the process of required ratifications and meeting reporting obligations to the United Nations Treaty Bodies for the 27 UN conventions. He said, GSP remains an effective Foreign Policy tool for the European Union, and thus the EU is a proponent of its continuation post 2023, albeit with some modifications. One of the main issue raised by the EU with Pakistan was the formulation of a policy and regulations on hazardous waste management. In this regard, as a responsible party to the Basel Convention, Pakistan will formulate the required policy for hazardous waste management by March 2022.
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 added, Pakistan is among the producing countries of chemicals and hazardous waste. We also import scrap materials for recycling purposes. This scrap material is used as raw material in downstream industries like for manufacturing of Aluminum doors & windows, electric cables etc. We have pledged to make all possible efforts to save our nation in particular and global community in general from the menace of chemicals and hazardous waste. We need to pool all intellectual and technical resources to cope with this challenge.
Dr. Zaigham Abbas, Deputy Director (Chemical) / National Project Coordinator, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan while emphasizing the importance of project said that important work is currently being carried out under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Special Programme for institutional strengthening. Ministry of Climate Change with the collaboration of UNEP is implementing a project titled “Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building of Stakeholders for Sound Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management” to strengthen the baselines on chemical and hazardous waste management, and to develop national level policy and regulations for controlling the hazard from chemicals and wastes.
He further added that a specialized directorate will be established in the Ministry of Climate Change with the assistance from this project to implement all the relevant provisions of the Basel, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Minamata conventions in Pakistan.
Commenting on making our country safe from the harmful effects of hazardous waste and chemicals in Pakistan, Dr. Zaigham briefed that Ministry of Climate Change is closely working with industry and other relevant institutions in the country to get rid of the hazardous chemicals and wastes
Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja spoke on environmentally sound management of contaminated sites in Pakistan and shared detailed researches of SDPI on the issue. Dr. Khwaja said, SDPI has 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.
Before concluding his presentation, he strongly 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.
Ms. Katherine Theotocatos, Program Officer from United Nation Environment explained the importance of Special Programme project in Pakistan.
Emphasising on projected growth in world chemical sales during 2017-2030 period. She said that global chemicals industry exceeded USD 5 trillion in 2017 and is projected to double by 2030. In 2016, 1.6 million lives and around 45 million disability-adjusted life years could have been prevented through sound management and reduction of chemicals in the environment (WHO 2018).
The workshop was attended, among others, by Prof Dr Sajid Rashid Ahmed, Principal, CEES, Punjab University; Dr. Waheed-uz-Zaman, Scientific Officer, School of Chemistry, Dr. Farhat Yasmeen, UET, Lahore; Mr. Shafqat Abbas, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Industries & Production; Engr. Muhammad Khan, Director Technical, and representatives of the relevant federal and provincial government departments, representatives of chemical industry, environmentalists, development organizations, policy experts, researchers, academicians and scientists, who discussed the severity of the hazardous of chemicals and wastes to the environment and human health.