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International Obligations
Chemical Disaster
The sound management of chemicals and hazardous waste was addressed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002. Delegates agreed to text in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation supporting entry into force of the Rotterdam PIC Convention by 2003 and the Stockholm POPs Convention by 2004. The Plan of Implementation also contains commitments to:
  • reduce the significant effects of chemicals and hazardous waste on human health and the environment by 2020;
  • encourage countries to implement the new globally harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals, with a view to having the system operational by 2008;
  • promote efforts to prevent international illegal trafficking of hazardous chemicals and hazardous waste, as well as damage resulting from the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste; and
  • further develop a strategic approach to international chemicals management based on the Bahia Declaration and Priorities for Action beyond 2000 of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) by 2005.
United Nations Environment Programme has a Chemical Section and the programmes there under are: Persistent Organic Pollutants, Mercury Programme, Land & Cadmium Activities, Legal File, SAICHEM, Chemical Information Projects and Consultant Roster. In Feb 2006, over 190 countries including India acceded to a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)- a voluntary agreement to ensure safe use of chemicals by 2020. India has decided to contribute to the newly created Quick Start Programme (QSP) trust fund. This initiative of UNEP consists of an Over Arching Policy Strategy and a Global Plan of action.

The participation and involvement in international agreements concerning management of chemicals is well developed in India. Most of the major international organisations such as the WHO, ILO, World Bank, UNIDO, FAO and others are working actively in India. The major international programmes are:

  • International Programme of Chemical Safety (IPCS),
  • Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), including:
  • Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for highly hazardous industrial chemicals and pesticide formulations in international trade, adapted in 1998
  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, adapted in 1992
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP), adapted in 2001
  • International Register for Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) and UNEP cleaner production programme.
  • UNITAR - Globally Harmonized System for Chemical Classification and Labelling
  • Asia Pacific Environmental Innovation Strategy Project
The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. In implementing the Convention, Governments will take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

PIC: (Accorrding to estimates by the WHO, about one million accidents each year are caused worldwide through poisoning from pesticides. The worldwide trade in dangerous chemicals is merely the beginning of the life cycle of a chemical; it is followed by storage, use, and the disposal of residual stocks. That is why steps should be taken as early as the trade stage to ensure that dangerous chemicals do not adversely affect man and the environment). In May 2001 the signatory conference for the POPs Convention took place in Stockholm. The POPs Convention implements international prohibition and restriction measures with regard to certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The core of the Convention is that twelve particularly dangerous POPs for the environment are to be prohibited or reduced until they are totally eliminated.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes. The Convention has 169 Parties and aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes. The Basel Convention came into force in 1992. The intergovernmental forum on chemical safety (IFCS) is a unique, over-arching mechanism to develop and promote strategies and partnerships among national governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. It defines chemical safety as the prevention of the adverse effects, both short- and long-term, to humans and the environment from the production, storage, transportation, use and disposal of chemicals. IFCS provides an open, transparent and inclusive forum for discussing issues of common interest and also new and emerging issues in the area of sound management of chemicals. IFCS plays a unique multi-faceted role as a flexible, open and transparent brainstorming and bridge-building forum for Governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations including from the private sector. This role has facilitated consensus building on issues and actions addressing the sound management of chemicals. By its efforts it contributes to the implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the work of other chemicals-related international organizations and institutions, with following purposes:

  • To provide policy guidance
  • To develop strategies in a coordinated and integrated manner
  • To foster understanding of issues
  • To promote the required policy support

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was adopted at the International Conference on Chemicals 6. February 2006 It was subsequently endorsed by the ninth special session of UNEP Governing Council in its decision SS.IX/1 on 9 February 2006. Further information on the Strategic Approach can be found on www.chem.unep.ch/saicm. SAICM comprises three core texts:
  • The Dubai Declaration,which expresses the commitment to SAICM by Ministers, heads of delegation and representatives of civil society and the private sector.
  • Chemical Disaster

          Figure VII: 10 steps to APELL Process (UNEP)
  • The Overarching Policy Strategy, which sets out the scope of SAICM, the needs it addresses and objectives for risk reduction, knowledge and information, governance, capacity-building and technical cooperation and illegal international traffic, as well as underlying principles and financial and institutional arrangements. The ICCM adopted the Overarching Policy Strategy which together with the Dubai Declaration constitutes a firm commitment to SAICM and its implementation.
  • A Global Plan of Actionwhich sets out proposed "work areas and activities" for implementation of the Strategic Approach. The ICCM recommended the use and further development of the Global Plan of Action as a working tool and guidance document.

Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL) was launched in 1988, following various industrial accidents which had adverse impacts on health and the environment - Bhopal in 1984 and the Sandoz warehouse fire near Basel in 1986, which resulted in extensive contamination of the Rhine, are obvious examples. APELL is a tool developed by the United Nations Environment Programme's Industry and Environment centre (UNEP IE), in conjunction with governments and industry. Its purpose is to minimise the occurrence and harmful effects of technological accidents and emergencies, particularly, though not exclusively, in developing countries.

National Safety Council of India (NSCI) has been partnering with the UNEP-DTIE since 1992 with successful implementation of 5-year (1992-97) APELL-LAMP Programme in India. Ever since, the APELL Programme in India has been growing, which is characterized by the implementation of the TransAPELL Programme in 2000 and by establishing the globally first National APELL Centre in Mumbai in 2002 and its sub-centres in Tuticorin (2004) and Pune (2006).

The UNEP-Trans APELL is being strengthened as a key vehicle for UNEP work, at the local level in preventing and preparing for all environmental disasters (e.g. flooding, earthquake, landslide, drought, cyclone, chemical release) and technological mishaps leading to fire, accidents, etc. The APELL Multi-hazard programme for disaster reduction has been decided in the UNEP General Council Meeting during February 2006 at Dubai.

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