Toxic landfill in Tajikistan to be cleaned up

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has allocated US$1 million to decontaminate a landfill site full of toxic chemicals in the Vakhsh district of Tajikistan.

Nigina Sharipova

2009-12-09

TAJIKISTAN ― The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has allocated US$1 million to decontaminate a landfill site full of toxic chemicals in the Vakhsh district of Tajikistan, according to Rakhmatullo Safarov, head of the Khatlon regional department of environmental protection.

The landfill is located 15km from the local regional centre and covers an area of 12 hectares. The Vakhsh irrigation canal is only 17km from the landfill and there are fields sown with agricultural crops just four kilometres from the site.

The two chemical landfills in Tajikistan, in the Vakhsh and Kanibadam districts, were built in the 1970s to store chemicals that were no longer usable. Between 1973 and 1991, approximately 7,500 tonnes of various pesticides were stored at the Vakhsh landfill site, primarily DDT that accounted for around 3,000 tonnes of the total. As a result, approximately 30,000 hectares of land in the two districts became contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Scientists have concluded that the landfills pose a serious threat to people's health and lives. The areas have been completely neglected and are not even fenced off. Rain and melting snow run into the gullies which have formed above the landfills, killing livestock in nearby villages.

"We frequently discover cases of theft of pesticides from the landfill site, which are then sold at markets. We regularly carry out raids to uncover such "goods" but people still find ways of selling them," Safarov comments.

"Initially, the landfill site was cordoned off with wire attached to concrete posts, but the wire and fence posts were stolen during the civil war of 1992-1997. There is no money to replace them and therefore the landfill sites are now areas open to both people and animals, who may become contaminated by the toxic chemicals that have already taken lives." Safarov reported.

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