Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OSCE Office in Yerevan supports efforts to reduce environmental threat posed by chemical waste site in Armenia

An OSCE-supported plan to handle an acute environmental threat posed by a chemical waste site near Yerevan was presented at a joint press conference by the OSCE Office in Yerevan and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

The Nubarashen chemical waste dump, which stems from the 1980s, originally contained more than 500 tonnes of obsolete pesticides, mainly DDT. The site, which covers an area of more than 3,000 square metres, also has contaminated the soil near the site and threatens several nearby villages. Recently, the site's cover was illicitly removed, creating an acute threat by exposing the dump's contents to the rains that are persistent in Armenia during this time of year. In addition, there is a risk for landslides at the site.

The OSCE Office in Yerevan provided an expert who developed an emergency action plan to contain the immediate threat. Once the acute threat has been dealt with, a long-term plan to dispose of the waste will be drafted with further OSCE assistance in co-ordination with authorities and other international actors.

"This situation poses both an emergency and an opportunity to not only address this particular site but comprehensively address all chemical waste sites in Armenia," said Carel Hofstra, the Deputy Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. "It is vital that the government and the international community act in a co-ordinated way and that civil society be involved, for example by raising awareness of local residents."

Col. Hovhannes Yemishyan, the head of Population and Territories Protection Department at the Minstry of Emergency Situations' Armenian Rescue Service, added:

"There is an urgent need to analyse the composition of the waste site's contents, to assess the threats posed by it, and to remove and dispose the pesticides. The OSCE support increases our capacities in the field and helps find an immediate solution to the problem."

The OSCE Office's support formed part of the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) initiative for the South Caucasus region, which aims to provide a framework for co-operation on environmental issues across borders and promote peace and stability through environmental co-operation and sustainable development.

Press Release: OSCE. Published in Yerevan on 30 April 2010

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