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A Toxics-Free Future


Disposing chemical wastes into water bodies awfully disastrous

Prof. Jamidu Katima, former IPEN Co-Chair and Chairman of AGENDA for Environment and Responsible Development in Tanzania, is featured in this story from IPP Media

7th May 2014

Professor Jamidu Katima stressing a point on how chemicals could be disastrous if not handled carefully, in Dar es Salaam, recently. (Photo: Daniel Semberya)

Stakeholders in the chemical industry have been cautioned that disposing their chemical waste into water is devastating to organisms and the environment.

Professor Jamidu Katima Department of Chemistry and Mining Engineer, University of Dar es Salaam told this paper in an exclusive interview during the just ended World Day for Safety and Health at Work, that chemicals are poisons.

He says if you throw them in the environment you are killing creatures and organisms living in that water, citing a recent incident in Musoma, where un-known people poured chemicals in a pond killing almost all tilapia and other organisms in it.

In order for some companies not to throw their piling waste chemicals to the environment, the government in collaboration with other key stakeholders is looking for an investor who will establish a big facility to dispose off the waste hazardous chemicals.

Prof. Katima says “If we think everybody should take responsibility to dispose off the waste chemicals, it will be disastrous,” he warned. 

“The government as an overseer should bring all generators of chemicals to the table and discuss ways on how to handle chemical wastes,” he noted.

OSHA’s Executive Officer Dr Akwilina Kayumba says waste chemicals are not only a challenge to Tanzania, but almost to all governments in the region, with exception of South Africa, which has established a modern facility to dispose waste chemicals.

Kayumba calls upon all stakeholders with hazardous chemicals to immediately report to Osha, that would send officials that would help them to establish facilities for waste chemicals in their respective places.

“If we know the materials you have Osha can send officials to establish facility for waste. We don’t need to copy and paste the European way of keeping hazardous waste materials, we need to introduce waste facilities proper to our environment,” she noted.

Kayumba says that normally companies before registering their firms they promise to establish facilities for disposing waste hazardous chemicals, but immediately after starting their operations they don’t do so! “Companies should be part of the solution,” she urged.

Meanwhile, Kayumba has refuted allegation that there is no any policy regarding chemicals in the country. “There is a policy for these hazardous chemicals,” she said.

Thus, Kayumba calls upon all stakeholders to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and strategies aimed at the sound management of chemicals at work.

“While we strive to maintain the benefits achieved through the production and use of chemicals we should minimise workers’ exposure as well as the emission of chemicals into the environment; adding that a coherent global response is necessary to co-ordinate the response.”

At his part, Health, Safety and Environmental Manager with PanAfrican Energy Tanzania Limited Richard Msumule revealed that Tanzania has no single facility to dispose these hazardous chemicals. 

“When we were drilling we needed a lot of chemicals to process gas. But we were forced to send them to Mombasa to dispose the waste chemicals, for there is no any facility in the country to dispose them,” he lamented; adding that “It is not proper to throw them in the ocean or lakes.”

Msumule further said that “The challenge we have here is that although we have the law in place, but so long we don’t have a facility to dispose the waste chemicals, it is useless to have it,” he explained.

He therefore, called upon all responsible sectors dealing with chemicals to establish facilities to dispose these waste chemicals. Furthermore, the government should enforce laws, which will properly monitor and supervise the importation of chemicals in the country.

According to ILO’s safety and health in the use of chemicals at work of 2014, chemicals in the environment have been proven to have significant impact, from climate change to the destruction of wildlife species and contamination of drinking water.

Clearly, a more judicious use of chemicals, and controlled release and disposal of them, is critical to ensuring our future environmental safety and health. It must also be done with clear regard for the safety and health of workers.

The report reveals that for many years, the chemical waste of facilities was indiscriminately disposed of in the ground, air, and water sources in the area. This situation has changed to a large extent in those countries where appropriate controls and practices to clean up and prevent their recurrence have been established. 

However, there are other countries that are still dealing with significant pollution. In some cases, environmental effects are seen as a necessary adjunct to increased development and economic growth. The long-term costs to society need to be adequately addressed when decisions are made regarding what is acceptable in terms of impact on the environment. 

For developed countries, much of the emphasis has been on correcting mistakes of the past, and establishing and implementing policies to prevent them in the future. 

Developing countries and economies in transition have the opportunity to learn from mistakes made in developed countries, and the experiences of having to correct them, by applying prevention through design principles to new facilities. 

One important aspect of this situation is the realization that pollution crosses borders. While one country may have programs to prevent improper emissions and disposal of waste, a neighbouring country may not and pollution travels in the air, as well as in waterways.

Thus to truly have an effective national programmes for the environment, there must be an international coordinated strategy to promote a similar approach for all countries. The GHS also has a list of environmentally agreed criteria for hazard classification.

Environmental protection and occupational safety and health are often dealt by separately in government institutions, without recognizing the impact that each may have on the other. 

As a result, situations developed where emissions to the environment were controlled by regulations that had no consideration of worker exposures, and the controls implemented actually produced greater exposures inside the facility than those present previously. 

Clean-up of hazardous waste sites also created significant worker exposure problems, particularly difficult because the chemicals present may be unknown, and the mix of the chemicals could create new hazards.