II. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN SUVA
[ II | A | B | C ]
C. Waste disposal and pollution
[ C-1 | C-2 | C-3
| C-4 | C-5 | C-6
2. Hazardous waste disposal
The industrial areas of Suva generate several types of hazardous wastes. The National State of the Environment Report lists, but does not limit, them as:
- Pesticides, including pesticide wastes, obsolete chemicals, chemical containers etc.; some are flammable and corrosive as well as being toxic, and it is likely that there are still large stocks of banned, withdrawn and out-of-date chemicals still in storage throughout the country;
- Petroleum wastes and waste lubricating oils which are toxic and contain large amounts of carcinogenic compounds, in addition to being inflammable; and sediments and sludge from petrol and oil storage, frequently containing toxic tetra-ethyl lead;
- PCBs in some electrical transformers and most capacitors, including large ones in power stations and electrical substations as well as small ones associated with fluorescent lighting;
- Asbestos-containing materials used in construction (roofing, pipework, ceiling insulation, firewalls etc.) as well as for lagging around old steam and hot water pipes;
- A wide variety of chemicals used in industries, of which the most common are the heavy metals (copper, lead, zinc, chromium, nickel, cadmium, mercury and arsenic) used in many applications such as: metal treatment, corrosion protection, anti-fouling, leather tanning, clothes dyeing, printing etc.; acids and alkalis; solvents and a wide variety of organic chemicals. Even a seemingly innocuous manufacturing operation such as gas-making results in large volumes of a calcium hydroxide alkaline sludge which requires safe disposal.
According to the National State of the Environment Report it is not the actual level of hazardous waste that is generated, but the way in which it is disposed:
"The rate of generation of hazardous waste in Fiji is difficult even to estimate. In developed countries estimates of hazardous waste generation range from l2 to 28 kg per person per year, the average typically being around l6 kg per person per year. Making the assumption that for a middle income country such as Fiji, the rate could be between one quarter to one half of this, i.e., 4 to 8 kg per person per year indicates that the total volume of hazardous waste requiring safe disposal per year would be in the range of 3,000 to 6,000 tons per year. The actual amount of material, however, is less important than the state of current practice. There are no industrial waste treatment plants or hazardous waste landfills in Fiji, and therefore it must be assumed that virtually none of these materials are being disposed of properly."
At the present time, safe disposal of hazardous wastes is not, in the main, occurring. There have been many examples of highly toxic materials simply being dumped on land or into watercourses, thus contaminating surface water and potentially groundwater as well. Some of the chemicals are sufficiently toxic that they would be fatal to a small child ingesting them, while also having the potential to contaminate foodstuffs.
The problems of hazardous waste disposal in urban areas of Fiji were highlighted in a paper presented at the 1997 Pacific Science Congress by the former Head of Pure and Applied Sciences at the University of the South Pacific (Naidu 1997). The paper noted that a major weakness in the present system "is the lack of regulatory measures controlling industrial disposal". It was Naidu's view that the Department of the Environment did not have adequate policies for the management of industrial waste. Naidu noted in particular the increase in car wreckage dumps that had sprung up on the outskirts of the urban areas of Fiji. "When you move one of these wrecked cars, the battery fluid comes out and that fluid contains lead and other very toxic heavy metals which can eventually pollute the water system."
Thus the current situation is that virtually no information is available on the generation, storage or disposal of hazardous wastes in Fiji, and there are no specific regulations for dealing with the safe storage, transportation and disposal of such material. Existing laws and regulations are inadequate. Those issues are addressed by the Draft Sustainable Development Bill, which contains two chapters dealing with the management of waste and the management of hazardous substances. The implementation of the Bill will go a long way to addressing the concerns raised by the National State of the Environment Report. For example, the provisions in the Bill which deal with derelict motor vehicles state:
- The disposal of derelict motor vehicles and their parts will be permitted only in designated derelict motor vehicle disposal sites specifically established for that purpose by waste authorities;
- Any person who disposes of a derelict motor vehicle other than in a designated disposal site will be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to the penalties provided for in Part XVIII of the Act;
- Where any derelict motor vehicle or any other part thereof is found abandoned on any foreshore, beach river bank, vacant land, road side or any other public area, the local authority in whose jurisdiction the derelict motor vehicle is abandoned, shall make enquiries and serve a notice on: (i) the owner; (ii) the last registered owner; or (iii) the occupier or owner of the land, requiring that they show just cause as to why the vehicle should not be removed and disposed of in a designated derelict motor vehicle disposal site;
- If, within two calendar months of the notice being served, the abandoned vehicle is not removed, the local authority for the area will remove the abandoned derelict vehicle to a derelict motor vehicle disposal site. The local authority will then levy the costs incurred for the removal on the owner or last registered owner of the vehicle, or where no owner can be determined, the owner or occupier of the land where the motor vehicle was abandoned.
The Sustainable Development Bill will require the Department of Environment to initiate the formulation of a National Hazardous Waste Management Policy within 24 months. That policy will be required to contain, inter alia:
- An evaluation of the volume and content of hazardous waste that is generated in Fiji;
- A statement of national priorities concerning the management of hazardous waste;
- An evaluation of hazardous waste management options which will consider environmental , technical, social and economic considerations;
- Standards and procedures concerning the storage and disposal of hazardous waste;
- A strategy containing mechanisms, programmes and initiatives that are to be implemented to bring into effect the hazardous waste management policy;
- A review of the social, environmental, human health and economic impacts of the policy and implementation programme;
- Mechanisms that are to be employed to manage or mitigate any undesirable social, environmental or economic impacts of the hazardous waste implementation programme;
- Mechanisms that are to be implemented to monitor and manage the implementation of the hazardous waste management policy and implementation programme, and ensure its periodic review.