With terrain ranging from dense Amazon rainforest to sweeping deserts and soaring mountain ranges, Plurinational State of Bolivia is often hailed as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Over the last 10 years, the government of Plurinational State of Bolivia has taken steps to protect its rich natural landscapes and strengthen environmental practices, including the management of chemicals and waste.
However, although Bolivia has ratified the Rotterdam, Basel, Stockholm and Minamata conventions, its chemicals and waste management systems remain inadequate. As a low-middle-income country, waste collection and disposal, as well as chemical management policy, are all underdeveloped and continue to pose public health and environmental hazards.
In order to resolve this issue, Bolivia has partnered with UN Environment Programme’s Chemicals and Waste Management Programme on a three-year project to strengthen national capacities for the management of chemical substances and hazardous waste. Through this project, Bolivia will work to bolster the capabilities of the Vice-Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Management and Development, and in so doing, promote better implementation of the relevant international treaties to which Bolivia is party.
A significant and early step in this project will be the creation of a new Chemicals and Waste Unit, which will focus on developing environmentally sound management protocols of chemical substances and dangerous wastes. This unit will be established in the first six months of the project, and will provide strategic guidance for the implementation of the project’s wider goals at the national level.
However, while the Chemicals and Waste Unit will initially focus on the project, it will become a permanent government unit to ensure long-term sustainability for the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes after the end of the programme. In the future, this unit will have a specific budget allocation from the government’s treasury department to support activities such as the hiring of permanent and adequate personnel to ensure its operation in the short and long term.
Once created, the Chemicals and Waste Unit will be responsible for undertaking a diagnosis of Bolivia’s implementation of international treaties on chemicals and waste management, in order to understand the gaps and weaknesses that need to be addressed. This will support the development of methodologies to process data on hazardous wastes, as well as awareness raising and capacity-building on waste management.
This analysis will also form the basis for proposed legislation to improve the current legal framework in Bolivia and support the creation of a programme to reduce chemical disasters. By highlighting urgent legal gaps and improving policy for chemical substances and hazardous waste management, this project will ensure that Bolivia’s adherence to key international conventions on this issue can be a core part of its environmental policy long into the future.
Bolivia’s chemicals and waste development programme will also include a specific gender approach to ensure women are empowered as key stakeholders and leaders in the decision-making process. The project will also identify the specific risks of exposure to hazardous waste faced by vulnerable groups like women and children, and create training and awareness-raising strategies within a gender-based framework.
This entire project will also include an important evaluation process, through which activities will be monitored and key results reported. This will ensure that Bolivia, with support from the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme, will achieve significant improvements in environmental policy and ensure the lasting protection of its many natural treasures.