Hazardous chemicals, wastes and air pollutants continue to be released in large quantities into the environment. When these pollutants are left unchecked, they pose severe health and environmental risks. Despite the increase of regulations, the enforcement remains weak and inadequate. UNEP supports countries in their efforts to improve the management of chemicals and waste and improve air quality in order to significantly reduce the negative impacts that these components have on the environment and human health.
In West Asia, we focus on supporting environmentally sound chemical management, delivering integrated waste management solutions at the national and local level, and supporting control and prevention of air pollution
Supporting environmentally sound chemical management
In efforts to deal with hazardous chemicals, there are multilateral agreements, and coordination mechanisms that addresses different aspects of chemicals management and safety. These include the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal, the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Minamata Convention on Mercury as well as the 2006 Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Vienna Convention and its Montreal Protocol for the Control of Ozone Depleting Substances. UNEP support implementation of these agreements in West Asia.
Delivering integrated waste management solutions at the national and local level
Conventionally, waste management has been based on collection, treatment and disposal. This approach is resulting into serious environmental and public health impacts and loss of the resources, which could have been recovered from waste. The diversity in the composition of waste is also increasing from mainly organic towards complex composition containing more hazardous substances and inorganic materials, which will have bigger negative impact on human health and environment. For example, electric and electronic waste (e-waste), which contain hazardous substances such as lead and mercury, is the fastest growing waste stream.
UNEP in West Asia assists national and local authorities to develop holistic waste management strategies that increases waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery leading to overall reduction of final disposal such as landfilling. UNEP also works with civil society organizations and the private sector to enhance waste management related knowledge in the region, and to promote holistic approach for waste management in the region.
Supporting control and prevention of air pollution
Air pollution poses serious impacts on human health and the wellbeing of people. Air pollution, which is transboundary in nature, also contributes to regional level issues such as dust storms and global level issues such as climate change. Thus, the inaugural session of the United Nations Environment (UNEA) adopted a Resolution on air pollution that, among others, calls on Governments to “formulate action plans and establish and implement nationally determined ambient air quality standards and to establish emissions standards for their significant sources of air pollution”.
UNEP supports a coordinated approach for addressing air pollution in West Asia by promoting science-policy interface, particularly through development of harmonised guidelines, integrated strategies, and capacity building.
Montreal Protocol: Supporting the phase out of ozone depleting substances
All West Asia countries are Parties to the Montreal Protocol, with the exception of the Palestinian National Authority. The Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) serves network members through several means by mainly utilizing the technical and policy expertise of CAP in providing policy advice, technical services to prepare and implement phase-out strategies and projects, regular forums to facilitate South-South & South-North (S-S and S-N) experience exchange as well as mobilize resources and capacities at key relevant organizations / secretariats. The aim is to achieve and maintain compliance with Montreal Protocol targets in phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs).
Stockholm Convention: Support controlling persistent organic pollutants
The Stockholm Convention came into force on 17 May 2004 and seeks to control chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulate in fatty tissues and biomagnifies through the food chain. These chemicals include pesticides such as DDT, and industrial chemicals such as PCBs (polychlorinated bi-phenyls) found in electrical components such as insulating oil, for example, and in transformers and capacitors used in electricity grids. There are more than 30 chemicals controlled by the Convention. These chemicals have been used in West Asia in the past while some remain in use or are in stockpiles.
Eleven countries in the West Asia region are Parties to the Convention. Parties to the Convention are obliged to develop a National Implementation Plan (NIPs) which identifies the current state of these chemicals and their management and articulates policy, program, priorities and activities that Parties will take to eliminate these chemicals. UNEP supports West Asian countries in the development and implementation of NIPs.
Minamata Convention: Support phase out and phase down of mercury
Once released to the environment, mercury poses serious threat to human health and the environment as it can bioaccumulates in animals and humans. The Minamata Convention on mercury, adopted as a multilateral environmental agreement in October 2013, provides a framework that controls and reduces across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. The treaty also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal, and safe storage of waste mercury. The Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017. Most of the countries in West Asia are signed and or parties to the Convention. UNEP implements activities in support of the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention in West Asia.