12 pinpricks of light

David Hanrahan, Blacksmith’s director of global operations, described it best when he called them “12 pinpricks of light” – these are the 12 cases of cleanup and success we found around the world.

I was surprised and a little shocked that we got so few responses when we put out the call for pollution solutions for our latest World’s Worst Polluted Places report.  Given that our database documents over 1,000 extremely polluted sites still waiting for cleanup, the 45 nominations we received seemed woefully small…. like pinpricks.

This shows that polllution remediation is still just an emerging activity.  But that’s why we are showing off solutions…because we want people to know that the problem is finite and the solutions doable.

For those of you who have not read the report, here are the 12 pinpricks of light:

THE TOP CLEANUPS AND SUCCESSES

The following 10 programs, alphabetically listed by location and unranked, are included in the report as examples of successful efforts to reduce the toll of pollution on human health:

* Accra, Ghana: the broad commercialization of innovative cooking stoves to reduce indoor air pollution that causes respiratory illnesses among women and children;

* Chernobyl-affected areas, Eastern Europe: medical, psychological and pedagogical interventions to improve the lives and livelihoods of those living in the zone of radiation contamination;

* Delhi, India: highly effective public policies to reduce the vehicle emissions that cause urban air pollution responsible for respiratory illnesses;

* Haina, Dominican Republic: removal of soil contaminated by the improper recycling of used car batteries to reduce lead levels in children’s blood;

* Kalimantan, Indonesia: new techniques to reduce mercury poisoning from artisanal gold mining;

* Candelaria, Chile: managing mine tailings to protect scarce water supply;

* Rudnaya Pristan Region, Russia: removal of lead-contaminated soil in children’s playgrounds in order to lower blood lead levels in children;

* Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, China: 12-year program to clean up sewage in an urban waterway that supplies drinking water to millions;

* Tanzania: removal of a stockpile of pesticides (e.g., DDT) responsible for contaminating soil and a nearby river, poisoning the local residents;

* West Bengal, India: reduction in arsenic poisoning through treatment of naturally occurring arsenic in well water.

Two additional initiatives with worldwide impact are:

* Leaded Gas Phase Out: a global effort by governments, multilateral agencies and the private sector to eliminate lead in gasoline that causes neurological damage

* Obsolete Chemical Weapons: an international treaty to eliminate obsolete chemical weapons that maim and kill

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