4 April 2006
South Africa and the World Bank have signed an R11-million grant agreement on the disposal of poisonous obsolete pesticides in the country.
The agreement, signed in Pretoria on Tuesday, will see the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism spearheading the cleaning and disposal of obsolete pesticides that pose serious health risks in the country.
Spokesperson Molefe Molamu said the department would appoint a team of experts “as soon as possible” to begin the process.
The programme is in line with World Bank’s multi-partner African Stockpiles Programme to dispose of vast stockpiles of poisonous, obsolete chemical pesticides in seven African countries.
The programme plans to get rid of an estimated 50 000 tons of toxic pesticides and associated waste, as well as tens of thousands of tons of contaminated soil.
The project follows on previous successful initiatives carried out in other countries on the continent that resulted in over 1 000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides being destroyed.
The pesticides are believed to contribute to land and water degradation and to pose a serious threat to people and livestock.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said getting rid of pesticides had been a problem for South Africa due to lack of human and technical capacity.
“We need to move in earnest with awareness and capacity building measures to make people aware of the dangers posed by these chemicals,” Mabudafhasi said.
The programme includes identifying and removing all obsolete, unwanted and banned pesticides in the hands of the public, commercial, small and emerging farmers, households and government.
South Africa is mobilising the agricultural sector, the pesticide industry and government to identify all stocks in the country.
These will be repackaged and transported to a central point where a firm selected through a tender process will destroy them in accordance with national and international standards.
Mabudafhasi said her department would embark on a programme to educate the public about the dangers posed by these pesticides.
“A complete clean-up campaign will include taking inventory of all obsolete stockpiles, buried pesticides, containers, obsolete veterinary stocks and contaminated sites,” she said.
The minister reassured farmers who used such materials that they would not be persecuted for declaring them.
“No punitive action will be taken for declaring stocks, and the period of amnesty will prevail while inventory and collection of old stock is undertaken [free of charge].”
However, she warned that the programme would look into the legal framework should people miss the opportunity to declare.
A strategy will also be devised to deal with pesticides at learning institutions.
World Bank Country Director Ritva Reinikka said she hoped South Africa would be able to deal with this problem.
“This is a major task, it is important for farmers to participate,” Reinikka said, adding the country had demonstrated commitment to support a project that would benefit both the African region and the global environment.