FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Georgia benefits from obsolete pesticide clean-up

During the Soviet era, pesticides were habitually overused or misused in efforts to boost food production. Today, large quantities of obsolete and banned pesticides pose a significant threat to people’s health and the environment.

Georgia said goodbye to the last of its stocks of old pesticides last month, as a convoy of trucks transported the material to France for incineration. Georgia is the most recent country to benefit from a large FAO regional projectaimed at cleaning up obsolete pesticides in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova.

Valued at Euro 7 million and financed by the European Union and FAO, the project is entitled, “Improving capacities to eliminate and prevent recurrence of obsolete pesticides as a model for tackling unused hazardous chemicals in the former Soviet Union.”

During autumn 2015, more than 208 tonnes of expired chemicals were removed from abandoned fieldsin Georgia, after an inventory had identified obsolete pesticides at four sites – in Kvareli, Khornabuji, Telavi, and Merjevi (Sachkhere).

The clean-up took place over 30 days – 15 days for repacking and 15 days for loading the trucks, under the supervision of Polyeco Group, a specialized disposal company, and Eco Life, a national nongovernmental organization. Polyeco then transported the chemicals from a temporary storage facility to France where they will be disposed in an environmentally sound manner of through incineration.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia obtained the required documentation to ensure compliance with the Basel Convention, which governs cross-border transport of hazardous chemicals.

Beyond disposal operations, the project is also studying the life cycle of pesticides and developing a needs-based assessment and health-risk reduction plan for farmers who use them. The hope is to prevent expensive clean-ups in the future.

“While cleaning up these pesticides is great, we also need to focus on finding a long-term solution to disposal problems and prevent the accumulation of obsolete pesticides,” said national project consultant Khatuna Akhalaia. “The cost of clean-up as compared with prevention is huge. Stocks should be used taking account good agricultural practices and we should reduce the use of pesticides to avoid overstocking.”

In addition to FAO and the European Union, the project involves partnerships with five international NGOs, six national NGOs, four private disposal companies, and the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat.Companies working under the project are selected by public tenders conducted by FAO.

Clean-up operations under the project to date have been carried out in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia. The project is set to conclude by September 2016.

12 May 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia