Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of chemical pollutants which are extremely perilous to human health and the ecosystems. It has been known that some POPs are insecticide/ pesticides, a few are industrial chemicals, and a few other are by-products of certain industrial processes like combustion and polymerization. These organic compounds are resistant to natural environmental processes that neutralize them with the time.

The Stockholm convention initially listed 12 POPs, eight of which were pesticides. In 2009 and 2011, the Conference of Parties suggested amendments in the Annexes A, B, and C of Stockholm Convention to include 10 new POPs, six of which were pesticides. The pure pesticides listed in the Annexes of Convention are Aldrin, Chlordane, Chlordecone, DDT, Dieldrin, Endosulfan and its related Isomers, Endrin, Heptachlor, Lindane, Mirex, and Toxaphene, while Pentachlorobenzene and Hexachlorobenzene are categorised as pesticide as well as industrial chemical and by products.

Everyday food items, especially fish, meat, butter and cheese are exposed to and contaminated by these hazardous chemicals (POPs) suspended in the atmosphere. When people eat such contaminated foods, digestive track process food material during which POPs accumulate in the fatty tissue concentrations. When concentration of these POPs exceeds certain level, it sources fatal diseases. The potential sources of POPs in Pakistan are electrical equipment, home appliances; open burning of e-waste, furniture, plastic processing industry, paints, plasticizer, PVC production, plastic, coal/wood combustion, industrial processes, and PCBs associated emissions. Serious health concerns about POPs were highlighted between 1960 and 1970 when DDT, PCBs and Dioxin – major chemical pollutants – were found to have high potential of causing serious health disorder in the human body.

Pakistan became the signatory of Stockholm Convention on POPs on December 6, 2001 and then ratified it on April 14, 2008. The key role and responsibility was assigned to the Ministry of Climate Change for compliance at country level. According to the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) approved by Pakistan Environmental Protection Council (PEPC) 2001, four areas which are highly sensitive in environmental context need immediate attention. These include fresh air, clean water, treatment of solid wastes and eco-system management.

The manufacturing, distribution and the usage of PCBs is not being regulated lawfully in Pakistan even with pronouncement of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 that obligates- Prohibition of certain discharges and emissions- under its Section II, sub section I. To observe the compliance of obligations set under Stockholm Convention, 1stNational Implementation Plan (NIP) of Pakistan was executed in 2006-2009 and 2nd NIP is being run from 2015-2019 under the Ministry of Climate Change. Europe has dedicated regulation on POPs that can be assessed as an example of standard rules and regulations to address growing threats of POPs in Pakistan. Recently, the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) Pakistan hosted a three days workshop “National inception and training workshop for updating inventory of initial and new Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Pakistan” on 16-18 February, 2016 at Islamabad. A German environmental consultant, Dr. Roland Weber was hired by MoCC for proper and careful development of National Action Plan (NAP) to meet emerging issue associated with the POPs in Pakistan. However, a serious attitude and spirit at Government level is required to implement NAP truly in order to avoid identified and unidentified problems associated with very pathetic regulation of industrial wastes. Along with well targeted policies and uniform imposition of laws and regulations, a scheme of creating experts and awareness on POPs is equally important to address challenges of human and environmental health of the country.