POST TIME: 18 February, 2019 12:41:48 AM
Ctg to breathe free as DDT disposal begins in June

Ctg to breathe free as DDT disposal begins in June

Various government departments, in collaboration with the United Nation's (UN's) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), are expected to start the process of disposing of 500 metric tonnes of DDT by June, 2019. DDT has been polluting the air in Chittagong since 1984. At present, only some designated countries can dispose of DDT. These nations are Germany, France and the Netherlands. Sources in the health department said the DDT will be sent to Germany and it will take about 36 months to be destroyed completely.

In the meantime, the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) of the UN has approved USD 8.295 million (BDT 69 crore) to dispose 500 metric tonnes of DDT, which is not only dangerous for the bio-diversity but also for people living within the radius of 1 km from the warehouses where the DDT has been stored, at Agrabad in Chittagong.

When contacted, Nur Khandaker, assistant representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Bangladesh, told The Independent: “The GEF approved about USD 8,500,000, including the project proposal cost, to dispose of the DDT. We have informed the government and processed the documents to sign an agreement with the Economic Relations Division (ERD) for the

purpose. We hope to start the disposal in June

this year.” The FAO is waiting to sign an agreement with the ERD to speed up safe disposal of the toxic material outside Bangladesh in accordance with international laws.

The deputy director of the Department of Environment (DOE), Md Hasan Hasibur Rahman, told The Independent: “We are preparing a project to destroy the DDT. We will float a tender. After starting the process, it will take about 36 months to destroy the DDT.”

Bangladesh applied to the GEF (as the country is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on removal of Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs) and was supposed to get the money by December 2015. However, it did not get the funds for bureaucratic reasons.

On January 16, 2016, The Independent published a report titled “500 tonnes of DDT poisoning Ctg air: No pragmatic steps in 32 years to dispose of the hazardous powder.”  Again, the FAO sent a proposal to the GEF, and it finally got the nod of GEF on May 1, 2017.

After importing the DDT, the authorities found it to be of sub-standard quality during a test at the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) laboratory and at the Dhaka Testing Laboratory in 1985. The DDT was not put to use and was kept in the warehouses. The supplier firm, Messer’s Exchange International Limited, was asked to replace it.

The supplier filed a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bangladesh, refusing to replace the chemical. The verdict went against Bangladesh. In various procedures, many years passed. In the meantime, DDT was banned worldwide as it was found to be harmful to public health and bio-diversity.

Between 1991 and 1997, production and marketing of DDT was banned as its acute toxicity is a threat to wildlife. The DDT was kept at No. 4,11,12 & 13 central warehouses of the Department of Health. A lot of powder is strewn on the floor as packets have been ruptured.

The obnoxious fumes have got mixed with the air outside through broken doors, windows and air ventilators. This has been contaminating the environment of Chittagong for the last 35 years. The situation is such that the warehouses will have to be brought down.

Many representatives of international organisations and national experts have visited the warehouses several times. All of them were of the opinion that the DDT poses a threat to the environment and public health.