The Dominican Republic has one of the most dynamic and diverse manufacturing sectors in the Caribbean, which implies the use of hazardous chemicals. As a Party to the Basel, Stockholm, Rotterdam, and Minamata Conventions the Dominican Republic aims to raise awareness of the dangers and risks of chemicals on human health and the environment and establish guidelines on how to address them. Although the country has a set of regulations that constitute the environmental regulatory framework for chemicals management, it does not have policies or regulations to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in the productive sectors. Since 2010, the country has been implementing its National Policy on Sustainable Consumption and Production, which targets specific areas of action to reduce pollution, create efficient production systems and reduce resource consumption.
For example, in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic, the widespread use of pesticides and other chemicals to combat pests and diseases that attack agricultural crops have contributed to environmental degradation and the incidence of chemical-related diseases. In the same region, Barrick Gold, a Canadian gold mining company, uses a massive amount of chemicals in its operations.
Furthermore, a study conducted in 2004 estimated that large quantities of products and substances were stored in the town of Bajos de Haina, in the southern province of San Cristobal. This included 9.8 tonnes of formaldehyde, 1.2 tonnes of lead, 416 tonnes of ammonia and 18.5 tonnes of sulphuric acid. According to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, these chemicals primarily originated from industrial processes such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, oil refinery, and the production of metal and electrical components.
Based on the outcomes of the study and the enforcement of Law 64-00 on Environment and Natural Resources, which was adopted in 2000, a series of measures were developed to improve environmental compliance by industries located in industrial areas of Bajos de Haina, as well as in other areas of the country. Over the following 13 years, these measures yielded positive results. For example, the amount of pollutants released in the town of Bajos de Haina decreased by 60 per cent as compared to the 2004 estimate. Much remains to be done, however, including to expand knowledge on chemical management, improve the management of hazardous wastes, and develop a national plan for the management of chemicals-related emergencies and accidents.
Through the support provided by UN Environment’s Special Programme on Institutional Strengthening for Chemicals and Waste Management, the Dominican Republic aims to build on existing measures to strengthen its institutional capacity to implement the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, and Minamata Conventions, and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The national project will develop a SAICM National Implementation Plan within an Integrated National Programme for the Management of Chemical Substances. Priority issues include establishing a system of chemical import registration, regulating the transport of chemicals and chemical waste, exchanging information on management between ministries, developing a risk management programme on chemicals and hazardous waste, and developing interagency coordination mechanisms to respond to a chemical emergency as well as emergency response training.
These activities will enable the Dominican Republic to implement the provisions of relevant multilateral environmental agreements, as well as continuing to build the country’s institutional capacity for managing safer chemical use.
October 2018 project update
Since the establishment of the project, the Dominican Republic has achieved the following milestones:
- Development a registration database for the import of chemicals and their products, led by the Department of Hazardous Substances. This included the preparation of operating procedures on the use of the database and holding a training workshop to facilitate the use of the import register by relevant stakeholders.
- Drafting a set of technical regulations on the Transportation of Chemical Substances and Hazardous Materials, including the identification of areas where the regulations can be applied.
- Establishing mechanisms for inter-institutional coordination in response to chemical emergencies in collaboration with the Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Centre. This included carrying out awareness raising activities with the view to developing a structure for a coordinated response to emergencies and the establishment of a working committee for the National System of Chemical Emergencies. In addition, a training workshop, focusing on the use of incident control management systems for emergency response, was also hosted.