Ministry of Environment and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday signed a new Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project on eliminating Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) through Sound Management of Chemicals.
The agreement was signed by Environment Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan and UNDP’s Resident Representative to Maldives, Akiko Fujii, in a special ceremony held at the ministry.
According to the ministry, the project aims to eliminate the use and unintentional production of POPs, organic compounds known as “forever chemicals” that are resistant to environmental degradation and have adverse effects on human health and the environment. The project, funded through grant support of USD 3,675,000 from GEF and USD 65,000 from UNDP, will provide an effect and environmentally sound system to manage POPs and other toxic chemicals through capacity strengthening and a national regulatory framework.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Hussain Rasheed revealed that the administration will dispose 24 tonnes of Poly-chlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) contaminated equipment under this project.
He noted that the safe disposal of toxic chemicals is a great challenge faced by the Maldives, touching upon the tragic chemical warehouse fire incident of 2019 in capital Male’ City which claimed a life, displaced hundreds, and damaged several residential buildings.
The minister declared that the government was taking steps to seek solutions, and stated that the new project is part of the endeavour to protect human health and the environment from hazardous wastes. He reiterated the administration’s commitment to ensuring the safe use and disposal of chemicals.
Dr Hussain Rasheed further highlighted that one of the key steps taken by the environment ministry is the development of an action plan to safely dispose of PCBs present in the country by 2025. The action plan includes raising public awareness on the issue, and the establishment of a standard chemical management system.
UNDP Resident Representative Akiko Fujii also stressed the need to address this issue.
"We need to support SIDS with investment and strengthen customs to manage and monitor imports of chemicals contained in products; we need to assist them with technical capacity and infrastructure to manage, safely store and dispose hazardous substances; we also need support awareness raising on this issue”, she said.
She hailed the Maldivian government for signing on to the project, highlighting that Maldives is one of the parties that ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs.
She added that UNDP will work with the administration, relevant stakeholders and the civil society to successfully implement the project in Maldives.
The project is to be implemented from 2020 to 2024.