17 Dec 2019 Story Chemicals & waste

Strengthening the environmentally sound management of solid and hazardous waste in El Salvador

Waste management is a persistent problem in El Salvador, where about a quarter of waste is discarded into rivers or other natural areas untreated. This is a particular issue for hazardous chemicals like mercury which, due to weak regulation and poor management, often ends up in illegal open pit dumps, causing health problems for locals and affecting the environment.

However, the government of El Salvador is committed to making important strides in resolving this pressing issue, and ensuring that both solid waste and dangerous chemicals are properly managed. In order to support this endeavor, El Salvador is working with the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme on an ambitious three-year project to strengthen the country’s institutions and more effectively manage chemicals and waste.

Although El Salvador is a party to the Stockholm, Rotterdam, Basel and Minamata conventions, some countries in the Central American region have not yet ratified all these important international treaties. El Salvador will spend the next three years strengthening its national regulatory framework, updating banned substances and prohibiting the use of equipment and materials containing mercury, while also improving waste management and preventing exposure to pollutants.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has as an institutional mission to recover the Salvadorian environment and reduce socio-environmental risks, through promoting a vigorous citizen culture and inter-institutional coordination, leading a public, energetic, articulated, inclusive environmental management in a responsible and transparent manner.

As part of this work, El Salvador will create a national register of industry, commerce and service activities that use hazardous substances. This database will be available for use by government institutions, like the Ministry of Health, that can authorize and monitor these activities to ensure that chemicals and waste are properly managed and disposed of, while also improving the surveillance and control systems for tasks that may pose environmental risks.

El Salvador will also work to put in place an electronic platform tracking the import and export of hazardous waste, which will assist authorities in identifying companies subject to surveillance and in maintaining the exchange of information between different national authorities involved in the authorization, control and monitoring the import and export of this waste. This platform could be linked to other countries in Central America to improve regional cooperation.

While project-specific, these two key tenets will become a core part of El Salvador’s future waste management, far beyond the three-year period. These will also form part of El Salvador’s overall institutional strengthening, with a number of government agencies, from the Ministry of the Interior to the Fire Department, improving their inter-agency cooperation as well as their own internal operations, ensuring that the country’s chemicals and waste management programme becomes a driving, sustainable element of environmental policy going forward.

This project will also have a strong gender focus in both its development and implementation. For example, throughout the project, El Salvador will provide training and awareness on the importance of gender equality to all those involved in environmental activities. With support from the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme, El Salvador will also promote financing for conservation projects administered or co-administered by women.

By incorporating all relevant stakeholders, from the country’s most vulnerable to the nation’s most important government agencies, El Salvador will fundamentally transform its chemicals and waste management programme over the next three years, ensuring that its institutions are strengthened, its protocols vastly improved and its environmental policies shifted for good.

For further information, please contact the Special Programme Secretariat at [email protected]