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Pesticide clean-ups could cost $500 million

Obsolete pesticides in Yemen before clean-up

Workers clean up unwanted pesticides

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Cleaning up the estimated 100,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides in the developing world could cost as much as $500 million. In Africa alone, disposal costs are estimated to exceed $100 million.

According to a recent FAO report on the problem, donor countries, aid agencies, agrochemical companies and recipient governments are all responsible for the steady accumulation of obsolete pesticides in developing countries. "It is therefore believed that there is an international responsibility to assist recipient countries in addressing the problem. International solutions and concerted effort, cooperation and commitment are needed," the report said. FAO underlined that the financial assistance of the chemical industry should be sought.

The best way to dispose of pesticides is high-temperature incineration, FAO said. Hazardous waste should be shipped to a dedicated waste incinerator in an industrialized country, since none of the developing countries - with the exception of a few newly industrialized nations - have facilities for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of pesticides.

FAO recently completed a waste disposal project involving about 260 tonnes of obsolete pesticide stocks in the Republic of Yemen. Storage sites were cleaned and pesticides were shipped to the United Kingdom for incineration. In Zambia, nearly 350 tonnes of toxic waste will be disposed of in collaboration with the German Agency for Technical Cooperation. In addition, an action plan for the containment and disposal of pesticide stocks for Africa and the Near East is currently being developed with assistance of the government of the Netherlands.

The long-term solution to disposal problems lies in preventing accumulation of obsolete pesticides, FAO noted. Stocks should be kept as small as possible; pesticide use should be drastically reduced and overstocking avoided.

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