THE Ministry of Environment has launched a new initiative to develop legislation regulating the use of hazardous chemicals in agriculture and industry.
The Sound Management of Chemicals Initiative, developed in partnership with the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Programme, was announced Thursday at a conference in Phnom Penh.
Khieu Muth, a secretary of state at the Environment Ministry, told the conference that chemicals had played an important role in the development of Cambodia’s agriculture and mining industries, but that the public needs to be more aware of the hazards associated with them.
“Chemicals, especially chemical pesticides, can be seriously dangerous. They are a double-edged sword,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.
“They can provide the benefits to the users, but they also affect the health of users when they use the wrong technical methods,” he said.
Hazardous chemical products, particularly those used in agriculture, are frequently imported from Vietnam and Thailand, often without any instructions or other labelling written in Khmer. This often leads to misuse.
The initiative’s goals
Kalyan Keo, programme analyst for UNDP’s environment and energy unit, said one of the main objectives of the initiative was to build awareness about the potential hazards of misusing certain chemicals.
“Cambodia doesn’t use as many chemicals as Vietnam or Thailand, but in terms of knowledge people are not educated in how to use the chemicals,” she said.
To remedy this lack of awareness, the initiative calls for legislation requiring distributors to sell clearly labelled products.
She said the initiative is designed to produce laws within three years.
Other components of the initiative include the promotion of alternative farming practices and improved border controls.