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Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs)

POPs web 1

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Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are highly toxic, long lived chemical substances that accumulate in the food chain, and pose a regional/global environmental threat. Demand for these chemicals is growing in many industries, e.g. agriculture through increased application of insecticides and fungicides. This is a relatively new and growing problem in the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that the EAP chemicals industry, which accounted for 7.9 percent of world chemical production in 1995, will almost quadruple by 2020 and account for 16.2 percent of world production.

To minimize potential impacts of POPs, the Stockholm Convention on POPs has been negotiated to regulate initially a total of twelve POPs, and in particular to:

  • eliminate the production and use of nine pesticides: aldrin, chlrodane, DDT, dieldrin,  endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), mirex, toxaphene;
  • eliminate the production and use of two industrial chemicals: HCB and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);
  • eliminate and reduce four unintentionally produced POPs (UPOPs: dioxins, furans, HCB, PCBs) through adoption of best available technology (BAT) and best environmental practice (BEP); 
  • limit the use of DDT to malaria control; and 
  • identify and dispose of stockpiles of obsolete POPs and POP contaminated wastes in an environmentally sound manner.

The convention entered into force on May 17th, 2004, and has 162 parties and 152 signatories as of December 2008. In the East Asia and Pacific Region (EAP), all countries have signed and all but four countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau and Tonga) have ratified the Stockholm Convention. Required by the Stockholm Convention, all countries are prepared their National Implementation Plans (NIPs) to outline their strategies in implementing the Stockholm Convention. As of December 2008, nine countries – Cambodia, China, Fiji, Mongolia, Niue, Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Vietnam – have submitted their NIPs to the Stockholm Convention.

Under the Stockholm Convention, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been acting as an interim financial mechanism of the Stockholm Convention. Through ten GEF agencies (including the World Bank), the GEF has provided funding for the parties of the Stockholm Convention to prepare national implementation plans (NIP) and implement pilot projects to demonstrate sound management and disposal of the regulated twelve POPs and their wastes.

In EAP, the Bank has assisted China, Philippines and Vietnam in preparing and implementing five POPs projects:

blue arrowChina:
Demonstration of management and disposal of PCBs, and
Demonstration of alternatives to chlordane and mirex for termite control
Rapid Assessment of Chemical Contamination of the Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan Province

blue arrowVietnam
PCB Management Demonstration

blue arrowPhilippines
Integrated POPs Management Project: Dioxins and Furans, PCB and Contaminated Sites Management

blue arrowWord Bank Projects-POPs

These projects are supplemented by other, non Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded activities, including the development of a PCB inventory, strategy for PCB destruction/disposal, investigation of dioxin/furan releases from pulp and paper production, and capacity enhancement to evaluate the impacts of exposure to POPs. A regional initiative, Capacity Development for Risk Management of POPs, is under implementation in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand. Lessons from these activities will help EAP countries to design and implement their national POPs management programs.

Further information on World Bank initiatives in this area, and on relevant international agreements is available here.

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