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[DODOMA] Tanzania is to get 'substantial financial support' from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to help dispose of 1,000 tonnes of pesticides imported from the developed world, according to the country's deputy minister for food and agriculture, Pius Mbawala.

Speaking in parliament last week, Mbawala said that this will be the first time that Tanzania will have received funds to dispose of such pesticides, which he said were dangerous both to human health and to the environment.

Mbawala said that the chemicals — which are stored in 300 warehouses across Tanzania —  had been imported from developed countries in the 1980s. Some of the pesticides had lost their effectiveness after being stored for several years, he said, while others, such as DDT, were on the World Health Organization's list of prohibited pesticides and should be destroyed.

FAO assistance to the Tanzania government to dispose of the pesticides will come through African Stockpile Programme, financed by the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility and other sources, which is being set up to tackle the widespread problem of large stores of hazardous pesticides throughout the continent.

Mbawala added that it is very expensive to dispose of such pesticides, and that Tanzania could not afford to do so alone. He would not reveal how much money the government is to receive from the FAO.

Some members of parliament, such as Benedicto Mutungirehi, queried why the disposal has been not been carried out earlier. Others said that the chemicals had been imported into the country in the past couple of years — much more recently than Mbawala had claimed — as part of international development aid.

The member of parliament for the Morogoro South East Constituency, Semindu Pawa, blamed the government for what he called "excessive negligence" in allowing Tanzania to be used as a dumping place. He said the government permits international companies and some development agencies to dump expired pesticides and other chemicals in the country.

Mbawala said that Tanzania has already started to take precautions against future dumping of pesticides by enacting a law last April prohibiting the import of pesticides that are nearing their expiry date.

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