Developing countries should have tougher safeguards against the production and storage of hazardous chemicals. This was stated recently in the UN Environment Programme's 18-point strategy for preventing accidents and environmental degradation due to the rapid shift of chemical manufacturing from industrialised nations to developing countries. The presentation was made at the Cartagena conference in Columbia, attended by delegates from 120 countries. The Cartagena meet was a stage-setter for the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Experts have expressed their concern that many developing countries lack security plans and appropriate emergency systems to confront chemical spills or accidents like the one that occurred at Bhopal in India,' the UN agency said.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's executive director, said the commercial and social benefits of chemicals must be weighed against the potential for harm to the environment and health. The UN draft strategy would try to attract international financing to beef up poor countries' knowledge of hazardous chemicals, capacity to warehouse them safely and ability to respond to emergencies.

The proposal also calls for nations to crack down on illegal trade in banned chemicals, prevent dumping of banned hazardous substances, and assess the health and environmental impact of new and existing chemicals.

Related Content