Reducing environmental and health risks in Belarus
Strengthening the country’s capacity to dispose of obsolete pesticides
April 15, 2014
Belarus never produced POPs and discontinued their import and use in the 1980s, but thousands of tons were used and stored in the country until that time. The country’s commitment to POPs elimination was sealed through its accession to the Stockholm Convention. The project’s overall risks were considered to be substantial, given that it involved securing, relocating, transporting, and disposing of hazardous wastes and other dangerous substances.
In addition, during the excavation at the Slonim stockpile site, more POPs waste that needed to be handled and destroyed was discovered, with evidence of further contamination of the surrounding soil by other obsolete pesticides due to a rupture of the containers and a pesticide leak from the cell that had been buried nearly 40 years ago. The recovered POPs waste was 700 tons more than estimated, and still more remained. In the end, project funds were not sufficient to destroy all the excess material.
We managed to excavate these dangerous substances, pack them properly in barrels and ship them to Germany for disposal at a specialized facility. In a year’s time, we intend to plant trees here, which 20 years from now will grow into a good forest.
The project activities helped implement environmental and health monitoring, measures to address dispersed polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) stockpiles, the expansion of regulations to manage the PCBs still in use, and the final disposal of obsolete pesticides that posed an immediate threat of leakage into the environment. Belarus’ national capacity to manage hazardous waste was also strengthened.
The recovery, repackaging, and safe storage of POPs pesticides from the Slonim obsolete pesticide storage site was completed. The challenge of the excessive recovered waste was addressed thanks to an additional allocation of Government cofinancing (US$1.5 million), the use of project cost savings, and a reallocation of Global Environment Facility (GEF) project funds.
After all these toxic chemicals are removed, local villagers will walk in the forest freely and feel perfectly safe. And they will no longer be afraid to drink the water.
Project activities helped to ensure environmentally sound management of the destruction of high-priority stockpiles of POPs and associated contaminated equipment, provide secure storage for lower-risk stockpiles, and support planning infrastructure to manage the future generation of POPs. Specific results included:
- About 3,000 tons of POPs stockpiles and wastes were recovered and packaged, about 1,800 tons have already been destroyed, and about 1000 tons of remaining stockpiles have been stored at a secure location, which significantly exceeded the original project objective of eliminating 1,800 tons of the dangerous substance.
- The project improved living conditions and eliminated POPs-associated health risks for 116,000 people living and working in the vicinity of the POPs waste area.
- The project’s partners received valuable practical experience in conducting cleanup operations, as the scope of the activities performed was unique for Belarus.
Bank Group Contribution
The project was supported by a GEF grant of US$5.5 million.
A US$5.5 million GEF grant was cofinanced by a Government contribution of US$1.5 million.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection implemented the project with the close support of GEF and the World Bank.
Belarus is determined to fulfill its obligation under the Stockholm Convention on POPs to minimize any release of the harmful substances into the environment and plans to dispose of any obsolete pesticides by 2028. Over the next two and a half years and building on the results of the GEF operation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will continue to provide support to the country, which will be coordinated by the World Bank. FAO will provide technical assistance to Belarus in managing its stocks of obsolete pesticides and enhancing the country’s capacity to minimize the threats from hazardous waste to human health and the environment.
The main beneficiaries of the POPs Stockpiles Management were: (i) the Government in the form of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection and the Ministry of Health, as well as line ministries responsible for sectors involving POPs (agriculture, emergency situations, etc.), national laboratories, and local governments; (ii) the Belarusian population as a whole and local populations more directly, as well as PCB-using enterprises in major sectors; and (iii) the world’s population more widely, given the project’s global objective of reducing environmental and health risks posed by the presence and release of POPs.
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