Greenpeace urges Industry to take responsibility for toxic dumps around the globe

Greenpeace activists completed the containment of a stockpile of highly toxic obsolete pesticides in Nepal. The pesticides were exported to Nepal by multinationals such as Bayer, Sandoz, Shell, Rhone Poulenc, Du Pont, Union Carbide (Dow) and Monsanto and abandoned there after they reached their expiry date or were banned.

The most dangerous substances found at the site, located on the outskirts of Katmandu, originate from the German chemical company Bayer. These include highly toxic chlorinated organomercury compounds, banned for use in the European Union since 1988. Despite requests to Bayer for help from the Royal Nepalese Government, the company has refused any support. "These stockpiles of obsolete pesticides are ecological time bombs," said Greenpeace toxic waste expert Andreas Bernstorff. "For these companies to abandon these toxic poisons with a total disregard for the health of local people and the environment is shameful. This would not be allowed to happen in the West, " he added. Greenpeace carried five kilograms of the mercury to the German embassy in Nepal and requested its political support to ensure that a solution would finally be found for the safe disposal of the toxic waste outside Nepal. The German ambassador agreed to do all he can.

Wearing full protection gear and breathing masks, a dozen activists from India, Germany and the UK, together with Nepalese agricultural technicians, have spent two weeks making the warehouse of obsolete toxic pesticides safe. The activists are containing all the poisons, including a thick layer that has built up on the warehouse floor, in high density barrels and hundreds of small containers, sachets and bags and are making them ready for sea transport back to their countries of origin.

The obsolete pesticides have been inadequately stored in rusting and rotting original packaging in a warehouse at the National Agricultural Research Council. The toxic waste is threatening the health of residents, workers and livestock in the area as well as local water supplies, irrigation systems and soil. The deadly substances, which include banned pesticides such as dieldrin, chlorinated organomercury compounds and DDT, were manufactured and imported to Nepal by Western multinationals some 20 years ago. All the poisons were donated to Nepal or channeled through international aid mechanisms in order to open markets.

An estimated 500,000 metric tonnes of obsolete pesticides have been abandoned worldwide, mainly in developing countries. They are usually stored in similarly poor conditions, often in residential areas or even next to schools. Greenpeace is calling for a comprehensive, global inventory of all obsolete pesticides and for the manufacturers and suppliers of the pesticides to take full logistic, technical and financial responsibility for all stockpiles around the world. It is also calling on companies to ensure the obsolete pesticides are disposed of safely, according to the regulations of the recent global Stockholm Convention.