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Uzbekistan to Destroy Old Pesticide Stocks

Friday 27 April 2012

(IWPR) – Uzbekistan joined other states in Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe on April 12 to sign an agreement on eliminating old pesticide stocks with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, and the European Union.

Over a four-year period, the FAO and EU will provide seven million euro to these states to help them destroy obsolete pesticides, design new legislation to control chemicals, and make farmers more aware of the risks.

It is unclear what proportion of the money will go to Uzbekistan, which has large stocks of toxic pesticides. The government estimates that over 14,000 tons are held in storage, although a lobbying group, the International HCH & Pesticides Association, puts the figure at 40,000 tons.

At the moment the chemicals are held in 13 underground dumps across the country. The 40-year old sites flood every spring, creating a risk that the chemicals will seep into the subsoil.

Pesticides were used intensively in Soviet Uzbekistan from the 1940s to the 1960s, and the republic had over 450 airstrips for crop-spraying planes. By the early 1970s, DDT had been banned in the Soviet Union, but pesticides continued to be used in Central Asia, especially in cotton-growing areas.

In the mid 1990s, chemicals were removed from storage areas on crop-spraying airfields and other collection points, and were placed into underground concrete bunkers.

Uzbek scientists say farmland continues to be polluted with chloride-based pesticides far beyond the permissible limits. No work is being done to decontaminate these areas, and the role of the nature protection agency is restricted to monitoring.

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