Persistent Organic Pollutants in Kazakhstan

Several hundred thousand tons of banned pesticides (biologically active substances used for agricultural purposes) have been accumulated in Kazakhstan. Moreover, on the territory of the Republic there are pesticides with passed expiration dates as well as the most harmful pesticides, the ones classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are the preliminary inventory results of outdated and non-recommended pesticides produced by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of natural resources and environmental protection (MNREP) in cooperation with UN ecological program UNEP Chemicals. The project was implemented in January-May 2001 in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by MNREP and UNEP Chemicals on January 8, 2001.

Kazakhstan joined the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants on May 22, 2001. Latest data indicates that of the former Soviet Republics Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan have signed the Convention. Among Central Asia’s neighbors signatories of the Convention include Russian Federation and China.

In July-December of 2002 in Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan) a project was implemented to inform media agencies, government officials, and non-governmental organizations about issues related to persistent organic pollutants.

Participants of the project included POPs specialists from across Central Asia, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly, Ecological news agency Greenwomen (Kazakhstan), Center “Gender, innovations and development” (Uzbekistan), NGOs from Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan. Central Asian Regional Ecological Center (CAREC, Kazakhstan) financed the project.

Here is an assessment of POPs-related situation in Kazakhstan and across Central Asia provided by one of the project’s experts from Kazakhstan, Professor Ishankulov:

Currently these issues do not attract appropriate attention in Central Asian states. Neither in industrial context nor in the agricultural sector research is focused specifically on POPs-related issues. So far a clear operational POPs management system has not been established. There are no specialized organizations dealing with persistent organic pollutants. Projects related to persistent organic pollutants are scattered among a large number of agencies, particularly, Ministry of environmental protection, Ministry of agriculture, Ministry of health care and the Academy of Sciences all have designated staff working on POPs-related projects. Lack of information on persistent organic pollutants available to government officials and to the general public is of great concern.

Problems related to persistent organic pollutants are interregional in nature and impact equally all countries of the former Soviet Union. Considering that Central Asian countries worked as a part of the USSR-wide economic system (the system provided for centralized resource allocation), currently there are similar types of persistent organic pollutants stockpiled across the former Union. This is the reason why currently all Newly Independent States (NIS) face similar challenges related to POPs management, inventory control and destruction.

Professor Ishankulov worked as Coordinator of the project aimed at developing a preliminary inventory of outdated and non-recommended pesticides stockpiled in Kazakhstan.

The project was implemented in January-May 2001 in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by MNREP and UNEP Chemicals on January 8, 2001. In addition to MNREP, Ministry of agriculture (Department of plants protection and quarantine), Ministry of energy and mineral resources, Customs Committee of the Ministry of State Revenues supported project implementation. Final project report contained official data provided by National sanitary-epidemiological station of Kazakhstan’s Health protection Agency.

Professor Ishankulov believes that in Kazakhstan agriculture and outdated industrial technologies represent key sources of persistent organic pollutants.

“Herbicides and insecticides (means of plants protection) represent the vast majority of pesticides used in the Republic”. Official data presented by the National sanitary-epidemiological station of the Health protection Agency and UNEP Chemicals indicates that Kazakhstan still applies such pesticides as aldrine, dildrine, gentachlorine, and DDT (the latter one is included into the international listing of the most dangerous substances). Despite wide varieties of new plants protection means being actively utilized in Kazakhstan, still analyzed samples indicate presence of pesticides dating back to 1950s and 1960s, such as GCCG, DDVP, metaphosphentiuryam and others characterized by high toxic levels, persistence and extremely harmful environmental impacts. GCCG and DDT are among the most toxic and persistent pesticides.

In 1995-1998 Kazakhstan experienced a one-third decrease in the territory of lands used for agricultural purposes. Production slump led to accumulation of unused pesticides stored in half destroyed storage facilities thus increasing risks of underground water pollution.

Kazakhstan mainly imports pesticides. “KZ”, the only pesticide produced in Kazakhstan (Pesticide Ltd., Shymkent) is not a POP.

In accordance with the data provided by Customs Committee of the Ministry of State Revenues as of April 1, 2002 Kazakhstan has imported 6.36 million kilograms of pesticides. Official data suggests that Kazakhstan imports only substances explicitly allowed for application. Within last two decades the volume of pesticides applied in Kazakhstan experienced an almost 75% decrease. The assortment of pesticides has changed but the number of pesticides legally allowed for application remains basically unchanged (approximately 200 types).

Key foreign suppliers dealing with local companies include Ufachemprom (Russia), Zeneka (United Kingdom), Uniroll Chemical (USA), Novartis (Switzerland), Ronne Paulenic (France), Monsanto (USA). Volume-wise 2.4 D-amine salt imported from Russia is the leader in pesticides shipments to Kazakhstan.
However, considering that Kazakhstan has transparent borders with Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan it is conceivable that in addition to registered Kazakhstani pesticides importers there are also companies illegally shipping pesticides to Kazakhstan including persistent organic pollutants. For example, a number of openly sold chemical household items include DDT and GCCG components and were smuggled to Kazakhstan.

Official report developed by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of agriculture states that as of January 1, 2001 Kazakhstan applied and accumulated a number of banned pesticides as well as pesticides not included into “The list of chemical and biological substances” used to fight plants diseases, harmful insects etc. (the List contains names of chemical and biological substances endorsed for application in Kazakhstan;s agriculture and forestry in 1997-2001). Also, there are large stockpiles of outdated, non-conditional pesticides as well as pesticides with passed expiration dates (mainly accumulated before the breakup of the Union).

Inventory results (compiled based on data presented by territorial environmental protection departments and Ministry of agriculture) identified the following types of pesticides subject to recycling and conservation:

a) Banned pesticides and pesticides not included into appropriate listings – more than 336 tones
b) Outdated pesticides – 323 tones
c) Non-conditional pesticides affected by improper storage conditions. Total volume of unidentifiable substances (mixture of pesticides resulting from damaged packing, lack of or destruction of marking etc.) amounts to more than 500 tones based on the data provided by territorial environmental protection departments and to 60 tones according to accounts of the territorial departments of the ministry of agriculture.
d) Pesticide-type persistent organic pollutants – 39.5 tones. 24 tones of geksachlorcyclogeksane (GCCG) located in Atyrau region, 15 tones of toksaphene located in North Kazakhstan region and 0.5 tones of DDT in East Kazakhstan region.

In Kazakhstan development of the preliminary inventory of persistent organic pollutants and remaining unusable pesticides provided sufficient data to estimate the total amount of all pesticide types subject to conservation. It is more than 1250 tones (based on territorial environmental protection departments data) and more than 620 tones (based on data provided by territorial departments of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of agriculture). These numbers are more than ten times higher than official statistics presented by the Ministry of agriculture as of January 1, 2001 – 85.3 tones.

However, these results are not final. Detailed inventory was not created for particular storage facilities and warehouses located in the regions of Kazakhstan. Considering overall difficult situation in the country’s agricultural sector it is conceivable that amounts of unaccounted for organic pollutants are even greater. Pesticides shipped to Kazakhstan throughout 1970s and 1980s currently are piled up in bulk in poorly equipped facilities with rusted roofs. Most likely these pesticides contain persistent organic pollutants. Underground waters carry these pesticides into rivers and other bodies of water causing significant damage to the environment.
Sanitary-epidemiological units of Kazakhstan’s health protection Agency conduct monitoring of health support environments which can contain some data sets related to pesticides subject to utilization and conservation. These data sets suggest that despite 5-6 times decrease in pesticides burden on soils overall pesticides pollution problem remains quite acute. Higher than nationwide average residual pesticides pollution levels are identified in Kostanai, South-Kazakhstan and Western-Kazakhstan regions, where preliminary estimates indicate that stocks of pesticides are not particularly large.

Professor Ishankulov suggests: “In Kazakhstan development of the inventory of industrial organic pollutants was quite difficult because of the lack of statistical and other types of reporting. Private ownership of many enterprises also hindered our efforts.”

Some industrial organic pollutants such as multi-cycle aromatic hydrocarbons and others accumulate as a result of fuel consumption by vehicles. These pollutants are supposedly used by some enterprises working chemical, wood processing and oil refining industries.

Based on data presented by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources it is possible to suggest that there is a certain probability of persistent organic pollutants being present in Kazakhstan. Approximate amount of polychlorine diphenils used in electrical machinery by some of the country’s industrial enterprises is more than one thousand tones. A significant proportion of such equipment consists of condensators produced up to 1994 by Ust-Kamenogorsk condesnator plant.

Data provided by territorial environmental protection departments does not indicate particular amounts of industrial persistent organic pollutants but determines the overall probability of their presence at enterprises in Almaty, Karaganda, Shahtinsk, Temirtau and Saran (Karaganda region), Ekibastuz.

There is no comprehensive data on the overall scope of industrial organic pollutants in Kazakhstan.

Professor Ishankulov stresses that in Kazakhstan only sporadic analysis of dioxins and phurans is conducted. We can only estimate dioxin exhausts of ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, power generation and chemical industry enterprises.

In Kazakhstan currently there are no legislative acts governing issues related to persistent organic pollutants. No particular consideration is given to persistent organic pollutants in 1997 Environmental Protection Law. Ecological and sanitary-epidemiological control units base their actions on instructions, for example, “Instruction on procedures related to conservation and destruction of banned and unusable pesticides and pesticides-containing packaging” (1996). Decree signed by Kazakhstan’s Chief Sanitary Doctor on May 31, 1996 entitled “On measures aimed at population’s health protection from adverse influences of agricultural chemical substances”. (An addendum to the Decree contains the list of substances banned for application in Kazakhstan and a list of substances allowed for restricted application; a list of chemical and biological means used against harmful insects and plants diseases, as well as, plants growth regulating substances allowed for application in Kazakhstan’s forestry and agriculture in 1997-2001 (1997, two appendices to the main list were published within next two years).

Imports of chemical plants protection means are subject to licensing in accordance with the Decree of the Government of Kazakhstan published on June 30, 1997 (N1037) “On licensing of exports and imports of goods and services in the Republic of Kazakhstan”.

Until 2001 licenses to import pesticides to Kazakhstan were issued by the Department of Export Control and Licensing of kazakhstan’s Ministry of energy, industry and trade. As a result of the reorganization its functions were transferred to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of economy and trade.

Issuance of licenses to import chemical plants protection means is subject to consultations with the following government bodies:

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of agriculture – state registration of pesticides and control over application of imported substances

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of natural resources and environmental protection – monitoring of the impact of plants protection means on the environment

Kazakhstan’s health protection Agency and Ministry of natural resources and environmental protection – coordinate application of pesticides particularly on the territory of cities and towns, in the woods, in recreation and other protected areas.

Ministry of natural resources and environmental protection and Ministry of agriculture are responsible for utilization and conservation of banned and unusable pesticides, as well as, pesticides with passed expiration dates and all the packaging which contained such pesticides.

Customs Committee controls shipment of pesticides registered in Kazakhstan and cleared for application in the Republic.

Professor Ishankulov considers that in the near future Kazakhstan will have to resolve the following issues related to persistent organic pollutants:
  • Create a unified POPs management system and a state body responsible for managing persistent organic pollutants
  • Address intra and interagency dispersion of POPs-related data
  • Establish an active Center maintaining registries of potentially toxic chemical substances
  • Increase POPs awareness levels of staff working in regional territorial environmental protection departments and departments of the Ministry of agriculture.
It is important to search for pesticides storage facilities owned by private entrepreneurs and assess conditions of these facilities (currently owners of such storage facilities are not registered, access to facilities is limited, while external observations indicate unsatisfactory state of the facilities. Also, in Kazakhstan there are abandoned pesticides warehouses).

After Kazakhstan had signed Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants, Global Ecological Foundation’s Council provided a grant in the amount of 500000 USD to implement support projects (create a detailed Action Plan). All logistical issues have been resolved and currently the project is ready for implementation.

Support projects will help the Government of Kazakhstan to realize acuteness of the POPs-related issues and to raise overall level of public awareness.

PROJECTS | POP in Kazakhstan 

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