Floods released hazardous chemicals, says UN report

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ISLAMABAD: Environment managers in Pakistan have so far taken no serious view of a United Nations report which stated that the recent devastating flood have released some 3,000 tons of hazardous chemical posing potential threat to human health.
The report entitled “Climate Change and POPs Inter-Linkages” is due to be released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) early next year.
The report presented at the climate moot held in Cancun, Mexico, last month revealed that these dangerous chemicals would add to the count of ‘Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)’ that are regulated under the UN Stockholm Convention of which Pakistan is a recent signatory.
According to preliminary audit report filed in 2009 on Pakistan’s POP stockpiles, at least 6,000 tons of chemicals were locked up in stores around the country. “Half of these stores were located in low-lying flood-hit areas,” states the report.
Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC) Director Zia-ul-Islam, when contacted to comment on UNEP report, said, “I have serious reservations about this report. We have locked our POP stockpiles in drums under strict security, so their release is not possible. We have such stockpiles in Nizampur (KP) and in some areas of Punjab. We will have to check their condition before giving some concrete information regarding POPs.”
Climate Change Study Center at SDPI Head Shakeel Ramay, while talking to Pakistan Today said, “POPs are substances that are persistent and toxic and can affect generations of humans. Exposure to POPs is known to affect health and can be the source of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders and cancer. Some POPs are also considered to be endocrine disrupters and by altering hormonal system, can also damage human reproductive and immune systems.”
He added that ministry of environment did not have the capacity to tackle this issue alone and was seeking help from international agencies.
While describing the methods to tackle this deadly environmental issue he said, “First of all we need to complete the identification work as we don’t know where exactly these pollutants will be found because floods hit a huge area of country.”
Environmentalists are of the view that as evaporation increases with warmer temperatures, more chemicals are released from landmasses, rivers and lakes where they are stored, and once in the atmosphere, they can spread to large areas.
They believe that global warming contributes to a higher frequency of extreme weather events, which can cause severe flooding and trigger secondary emissions of POPs.