In This Issue:
From The Pollution Blog, a report from Indonesia: Over the past two years, Blacksmith, working with local partner Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta, has been distributing low-cost retorts (like the one pictured here) to gold miners and gold shop owners in the remote mountains of Central Kalimantan - a hotspot of mercury emissions. These "miracle" retorts can recapture as much as 97% of mercury released during artisanal gold mining.
Blacksmith program manager Meredith Block recently spent a week traveling on foot and by car to reach these villages and mining camps. Read about her trip, and find out how much mercury was prevented from escaping into the atmosphere.
Blacksmith Identifies 600 Polluted Hotspots in Asia
Blacksmith has completed the first ever detailed inventory of polluted sites in Asia, identifying and assessing over 600 hotspots in 17 countries. The project is part of Blacksmith's ongoing international effort to document the world's worst polluted places.
Supported by the Asian Development Bank, the inventory produced a comprehensive picture of the true extent of pollution's toll on the region that until now has only been hinted at.
"The scale of pollution is much greater than we previously thought," says Bret Ericson, Blacksmith's program manager.
Over the course of 18 months, Blacksmith experts not only identified key pollutants in Asia but also analyzed health risks at each site, studied how pollution affects health in the region, developed remediation cost estimates, and explored options for creating a cleanup fund.
Small Scale Operations to Blame, Lead a Key Pollutant
Among the findings was that pollution caused by small-scale family-run operations like informal battery recycling and artisanal gold mining is particularly widespread. The inventory also identified lead as the key pollutant in over one quarter of the sites assessed.
"With this inventory we now have solid data that can be acted upon and shared with governments, pollution experts and funders, who have the power to support cleanup," notes Bret.
And that is what happened in July when Blacksmith organized a meeting in Manila that brought Asian leaders together to work on the pollution problem documented by the inventory.
This means that contaminated sites like the one in Meycauayan city near Manila in the Philippines will not be forgotten and ignored. Here, Blacksmith experts found villagers scavenging in a polluted battery factory for lead-filled items, which they then smelted down in their backyards. Moreover, villagers were also using lead-filled panels from batteries as flooring for their homes, a particularly dangerous practice since children walking barefoot on these are easily poisoned.
"Stories like this appear in the inventory again and again,"says Bret. "Now that we know the extent of the problem, we can begin to put an end to it."
India produces over 8 million tons of toxic waste every year and only has facilities capable of handling half that amount. This is according to Blacksmith's technical advisor in India, Dr. B. Sengupta, who recently gave an interview about India's growing toxic pollution problem.
In India, said Dr. Sengupta, anti-pollution laws exist mainly on paper. Instead of a few mega corporations, India has over five million small and mid-sized industries, making monitoring virtually impossible. Read the full article here.
In July, Blacksmith brought together its partners in China to share results from the various pollution remediation projects completed in the country.
It was an opportunity for those working with Blacksmith in China to meet, greet and exchange stories, experiences and ideas, especially in the area of heavy metals pollution, which has been recognized as a key problem in the country.
Strengthening Ties for New Focus, New Projects
The gathering, in Guangzhou city in Guangdong province, also helped to strengthen crucial ties with Chinese officials, experts and academic leaders, who help facilitate Blacksmith's projects across the country.
Addressing the partners, Blacksmith China director Dr. Sun Xuebing explained that "as an international NGO, our role is to act as facilitator and accelerator to provide technical assistance in responding to local demand. By working with partners, we have the confidence to go further, to contribute more to Chinese environment protection and pollution remediation."
Blacksmith is developing new projects and partnerships with various local agencies as part of China's master plan for heavy metals pollution prevention and remediation.
Following the meeting, Blacksmith and the China Research Academy for Environment Sciences conducted a joint scoping mission to South China, which suffers from serious heavy metals pollution.
Attending the meeting were representatives from the China Research Academy of Environment Sciences, the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research-China Academy of Sciences, Guangdong Institute of Eco-Environment and Soil Sciences, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Guangdong University of Technology, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's South China program director Madam Shenyu Guo.
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