It is intended to ensure sound management of chemical use

Health: A national profile on chemicals management in Bhutan has been prepared as part of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Quick Start Programme (QSP) project.

With this, the previous national chemical profile is now updated to catalyse a process of collaboration between the government and stakeholders concerned in understanding and identifying priority needs to strengthen sound chemical management using internationally agreed methodology.

It is expected to provide a basis for improved worker, public health and environmental protection as a consequence of improved knowledge and understanding. The revised profile is also intended to provide core information for the development of situational analysis and priority setting of actions to implement national and international commitments on the sound management of chemicals.

The national profile on chemicals management in Bhutan was presented at a high-level advocacy meeting on December 8.

The profile provides a comprehensive assessment of the national infrastructure and capacity related to the legal, institutional, administrative and technical aspects of chemicals management with its nature and availability and use throughout their life cycle in Bhutan. It also provides an analysis of existing capacities, gaps and needs and indicative proposals for action currently lacking.

NEC’s chief environment officer Tenzin Khorlo said the national profile on chemical management was necessary in view of production of chemicals that will continue to grow and increase faster in a developing country like Bhutan.

Tenzin Khorlo also said that the burden from most chemicals has not yet been assessed while the recent estimates are only underestimates. “The national profile is also required for a continued need for risk assessment and surveillance to strengthen the evidence,” he said.

As per the national profile on chemicals management besides some local pharmaceutical manufacture, chemical production is currently limited in Bhutan to manufacture of intermediates such as calcium carbide, silicon carbide and ferrosilicon. Imported chemicals include petrol, diesel, pesticides, fertilisers, industrial and consumer chemicals, and medicines for human and veterinary use.

The profile also highlights lack of coordination among various agencies in management of chemicals in the country besides lack of data and an integrated information system to know what chemicals are in use in the country.

Other issues are various legislations governing the life-cycle management of different chemicals wherein some legislation are new and remains to be tested.

It also states that the technical infrastructure for waste management is limited for segregation, treatment and recycling.

The profile also highlights issues such as poor environmental management in manufacturing industries compounded by lack of awareness among the workers on cancer causing chemicals.

The Annual Health Bulletin 2016 reported a high number of cases related to occupational and environmental exposures and poisoning from chemicals, plant and animal toxins treated at health facilities in Bhutan from 2011 to 2015. “This high morbidity indicates a need for greater attention to be given to the sound management of chemicals,” states the profile.

“Despite the significant success in the reduction of insecticides and fungicides and also action on control and restriction on several highly hazardous chemicals, the use of herbicides, particularly Butachlor is increasing significantly,” the profile states.

Following the award of the SAICM QSP grant, the health ministry and National Environment Commission undertook the project and began working in consultation with all relevant ministries, institutions and agencies on implementation. The two-year project ended in October 2016.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) country office for Bhutan project administered and coordinated the project while the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia provided technical and logistical support.

Kinga Dema