SPREP Director General Calls For Pacific-Wide Ban On Asbestos, Other Toxics

Latu says region being used as dumping ground

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 10, 2017) – Pacific Islands urgently need a Pacific-wide ban on asbestos and other toxic substances to protect our islands from being used as a dumping ground for products that other countries around the world have banned, SPREP's Director General, Mr Kosi Latu has warned.

He condemned the exclusion of the toxic substances chrysotile asbestos and pesticide paraquat from the Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention last week for the sixth consecutive time, saying "The Rotterdam Convention has failed Small Island Developing States."

Pacific Island countries are urged to address the issue to stop these substances from being imported into the region.

"In light of this, I urge SPREP's Pacific island members to consider support for a regional mechanism to address the influx of hazardous substances into the Pacific region. A Pacific-wide ban on asbestos, for example, would protect our islands from being used as [a] dumping ground for asbestos-containing products that other countries around the world will not accept on account of their own national bans." 

Mr Latu said the convention is supposed to help protect vulnerable countries from unknowingly importing hazardous and toxic substances.

“The repeated blocking of known harmful substances from being listed in Annex III of the Convention, despite strong support from the majority of Parties, is bitterly disappointing and is contrary to what the Convention was established to achieve."

Tonga, who addressed the plenary on behalf of the Cook Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, and Kiribati, urged all parties at the Rotterdam Convention conference, to list chrysotile asbestos citing the growing threats posed by the substance such as lack of awareness of the risks and the effect of natural disasters worsened by climate change. 

"Pacific Island Parties to the Rotterdam Convention want to know and need to know when materials containing chrysotile asbestos are coming into our islands so that we can take appropriate measures to protect our communities," said Tonga's representative, Ms Lupe Matoto. 

In the Pacific, an asbestos survey conducted by the European Union-funded PacWaste project and released in 2015, discovered that new building materials containing chrysotile asbestos are being imported into the region adding to the current stockpiles of asbestos in the area.

The addition of chrysotile asbestos to the list means it cannot be imported without prior informed consent.

Unfortunately the listing was opposed by India, Russia, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Syria. 

The second substance of concern in the Pacific is the pesticide paraquat. It is toxic to humans and causes death when swallowed and severe injury on skin contact. It is used to control a broad range of weeds growing in all climates.

Guatemala, India, Indonesia and Chile could not accept the decision to list paraquat and Indonesia opposed the listing citing that its own studies showed it is safe to use in tropical conditions.

As no consensus was reached at the conference, chrysotile asbestos and paraquat will be considered at COP9.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2017 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment