Educational workshops on sustainable and responsible management of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in BiH

October 23, 2023


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a series of educational workshops for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media and organizations dealing with gender issues, on the sustainable and responsible management of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), with the aim of raising awareness about their impact on human health and the environment.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, as other countries of the region and the world, faces challenges in managing stocks and the disposal of waste related to POPs. A total of 29 POPs materials are currently banned or restricted under the Stockholm Convention, which Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified in 2010, thereby committing to comply with its requirements, including to limit the use of hazardous POPs and remove old stocks and equipment containing these pollutants. Inadequate management of these materials, which can be found in industry, agriculture and everyday life, can lead to the release of harmful substances into the soil, air and water, posing a serious threat to the environment and human health due to POPs ability to bioaccumulate in living organisms.

The workshops were organized within the Sweden-funded project "Environmentally Sound Management of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Industrial and Hazardous Waste Sectors in Bosnia and Herzegovina - POPs", whose activities were presented by Alma Mirvić, Project Manager at UNDP. Since 2019, this project has been working on building capacity and establishing a legal framework for POPs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on prevention and monitoring the generation of u-POPs and minimizing POPs releases, implementing the principles of "green chemistry" in the plastics industry, and managing and disposing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and POPs from abandoned industrial complexes.

Positive examples of managing these chemicals through the project, as well as global trends, were presented. At a workshop with NGOs, representatives of the Arnika organization spoke about the activities by the International Pollutant Elimination Network (IPEN) to remove toxic pollutants from the environment. The importance of the cooperation of the NGO sector in mitigating the risks posed by POPs and protecting citizens from their harmful consequences was emphasized by Melina Džajić-Valjevac, an expert in the field of environmental protection and waste management, as well as Šejla Čolaković, from the FBiH Public Health Institute and Dušanka Danojević, from the Institute of Public Health of the RS. Concrete practices of dealing with POPs substances were presented by Ena Markotić from CENER 21.

At the workshop that brought together representatives of the media, their important role in educating and informing the public was emphasized, and information was exchanged about useful resources that can help them in quality reporting on these topics.

At a workshop with organizations dealing with gender issues, the importance of integrating a gender perspective in public policies and regulations was highlighted, given the greater exposure of women to these pollutants, which can cause serious health problems, including disorders of the immune and reproductive systems. Legal expert Amra Tabučić-Stanojković and gender expert Maida Čehajić-Čampara presented BiH's obligations in international agreements and practical examples of gender inclusion. Begzada Jovanović from the women's association "Siguran korak" spoke about experiences and recommendations on behalf of the NGO sector, and Dr Nedim Begić presented research on the presence of PCBs in breast milk.

All participants agreed that further work is needed on the sustainable and responsible management of POPs substances in BiH, and that it is essential to foster the cooperation between different sectors and actors, as well as continue education and active awareness raising on this important topic.