Experts alarmed by level of hazardous chemicals in Ethiopia

Experts alarmed by level of hazardous chemicals in Ethiopia

(Thereporterethiopia)—Stored agricultural and industrial chemicals at various institutions in Addis Ababa and regional towns are posing health hazard and environmental pollution, experts warn.

This was disclosed at a three-day training held this week in Addis Ababa on chemical weapons control and chemical safety and security management facilitated by Organization for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for member states. In the side line of the workshop, environment experts told The Reporter that with the increasing use of agricultural inputs and the thriving manufacturing sector, the threats of environmental pollution is increasing from time to time.

The experts said that stored chemicals at various organizations in Addis Ababa and regional towns are posing a serious health hazard on human beings and polluting the environment.

According to the experts, expired peptides and industrial chemicals stored at various locations are hazardous for the environment. “For instance, the use of DDT has been banned but a stockpile of DDT, has been found in various stores in Addis Ababa and regional states. More than 1400 tons of DDT has been identified in Addis Ababa, Adama and Hawassa towns,” the experts said.

Since the country does not have a chemical controlling system and destruction facilities for expired chemicals, they are stored at various places exposed to the environment. “There no organised information about the nature of the chemicals, when and from where they were imported. At times we do not know who imported the chemicals. These chemicals pose threats to human beings and the environment,” they said.

State minister of Industry Yohannes Dinkayehu told The Reporter that his ministry has formed a taskforce to deal with the chemical problem. “Expired chemicals cannot be deposed off in Ethiopia. These hazardous chemicals should be re-exported to the country of origin and destroyed there. This requires budget,” Yohannes said.

The Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture has established a national taskforce that works on the registration of expired chemicals. “We need to identify the locations and the size of these stored chemicals. We also have to know the cost required to eliminate the chemicals. So, the taskforce is working on that,” Yohannes told The Reporter. Yohannes said the amount of expired chemicals is not yet knowns as inventory work is being carried out. “We are working on that diligently and that should not be a big concern,” he added.

Experts lament that most of the expired chemicals have been donated by developed nations. “Developed countries donate chemicals due to expiry,” they said.   

Director General of the Chemicals and Construction Inputs Industry Development Institute, Samuel Halala also told The Reporter that industrial chemical registration and administration act was recently approved by the House of Peoples Representatives (HPR). Samuel noted that the new proclamation would enable the institute to register and control industrial chemicals. According to him, the institute has been given the mandate to control and manage industrial chemicals. “We are working with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on the details of chemical safety management,” Samuel said.

Nevertheless, the Chemicals and Construction Inputs Industry Development Institute which was established four years ago does not have a chemical laboratory. “The institute which is tasked with this huge responsibility does not have a laboratory. How can it discharge its responsibility?” sources said.

Samuel said that the institute is closely working with universities. “We use the universities’ laboratories for chemical testing. The fact that we do not have our own laboratory does not hamper our work.”

According to Samuel, the institute has requested the Addis Ababa City Administration for a plot of land where it can build an office building and a laboratory.

More than 30 chemical and environment experts drawn from 20 African countries participated at the three day chemical safety and security management workshop organised by OPCW.