Stocks of obsolete pesticides pose a threat to public health and the environmental in Kyrgyzstan. Exposure to the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), that many of these stocks contain, can lead to serious health effects including cancer, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems and diminished intelligence. Unusable stocks piled up in Soviet-time Kyrgyzstan due to over- ambitious planning and mismanagement of pesticides.
Burial site in South Kyrgyzstan – a hotspot that needs direct intervention
As a signatory to the Stockholm Convention, Kyrgyzstan aims to eliminate the obsolete stocks and reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Large international projects will be needed to organise and finance the final disposal of the stocks and it will take time to find enough support to develop and really implement these projects. Today, however, the health and environmental risks remain urgent and something needs to be done.
The burial site in Jalal Abad province for instance is one of the Kyrgyz hot-spots that need direct intervention. The fencing material that once isolated the site from its surroundings has been taken away by locals and illegal “waste miners” come to the burial site and dig out the pesticides, in order to sell these on the local market as Dust (DDT). They spill the pesticides and pollution of the soil has been observed as a consequence of these activities.
After the consumption of poisoned meat 98 people fell ill and 35 were hospitalised
Another problem is local herds of sheep and cattle passing by the site. Two years ago 98 people fell ill and 35 were hospitalised after the consumption of the meat of poisoned cows that reportedly drank standing water from pits on the site. This year a herd of 130 sheep died after drinking from the same pits.
An international coalition of NGOs and the Dutch Engineering Company Tauw received funding to lower the short term risks of the Jalal Abad burial site with cost effective and low tech measures to protect the environment and groups at risk from villages close to the site. Milieukontakt International, Tauw, Green Cross Switzerland, together with the Kyrgyz NGOs Ekois and Green Light joined forces for risk reducing remediation of the site. Awareness raising activities and a social medical intervention to support the village of the people who were poisoned will play an important role. The initiative is financed by the GEF Small Grants Programme for Kyrgyzstan, Green Cross Switzerland, OSCE and the Milieukontakt Private Donations Fund.
New fence to avoid further accidents
During a first mission in July it turned out that there is strong commitment to solve the health and environmental problems from the burial site in Jalal Abad district. A Memorandum of Understanding, designed as a Go / No Go decision making instrument to measure the commitment of local government, was signed by all relevant stakeholders even before the mission. Moreover, the first steps of technical implementation were already taken. Recently a new fence was build around the site. (See the picture above.) These results give a good perspective for further project implementation and high hopes that the project results will be reached in efficient cooperation with local government and NGOs.