Hazardous waste in India: Indian Government supports commissioning of GIZ

Bonn / Eschborn. The Indian Government today declared its support for commissioning the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to dispose of 350 tonnes of soil contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals. The soil in question has seen a build up of contaminants such as agricultural insecticides. The contamination is not related to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. This means that although the level of contamination is less acute, it still poses a health risk for the local population.

'The Indian Government is confident that GIZ will safely dispose of the soil, which has not been adequately protected and has been in storage for almost 28 years', says Hans-Herrmann Dube, GIZ expert. 'India lacks the capacities to dispose of the soil properly. We are starting to draft detailed disposal plans, based on the premise that safety is more important than speed.'

A decision has not yet been made about where to dispose of the hazardous waste.  The chosen location must allow for the waste to be disposed of safely, without compromise, and must not endanger the environment or people's health. Facilities in Germany, for example, fulfil these conditions. India itself does not have any suitable facilities at present, and building proper treatment, storage and disposal facilities would not only take many years, it would add to rather than quickly alleviate the suffering endured by the population.

GIZ was an easy choice for the Indian Government, given the decades of experience it has in responsibly and safely disposing of hazardous waste. Over the past 20 years, the German federal enterprise has taken on in the region of twenty-five similar commissions in developing and transition countries.

Based on the UN's comprehensive regulations for the safe and responsible disposal of contaminated waste, a timeframe of one year is planned for the project. Once the soil has been adequately protected, transportation could commence at the start of 2013 at the earliest.

The disposal is being commissioned and paid for by the Indian Government, which means that GIZ's work is not being funded by the German taxpayer in this instance. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has already given its approval for GIZ – a federal enterprise – to take on the commission, which is valued at about EUR 3.4 million.

GIZ's offer to dispose of the contaminated soil is in keeping with the Basel Convention controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, which is designed to prevent these wastes from being transferred from developed to less developed countries. The convention calls for toxic waste to be shipped to another country in cases where the technology to dispose of it properly is lacking at the local level.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations. We support the German Government in the fields of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Through our work we assist people and societies in shaping their own futures and improving living conditions.