Tackling Illegal Trade in
Ozone-depleting Substances and Dangerous Waste

Bangkok/Beijing,1 September
– A project to curb illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS)
and dangerous waste in the Asia Pacific region went into operation today.
“Project Sky Hole Patching” is designed to monitor the movement of suspicious
shipments of ozone depleting chemicals and dangerous commodities across
several customs territories in the region. It involves customs administrations
and environment authorities, the World Customs Organisation’s Regional
Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia and the Pacific (RILO A/P), United
Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (UNEP
ROAP), the Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) of UNEP’s Division of
Technology, Industry and Economics, Basel Convention Regional Centers and
other key international organizations.

“It is encouraging that customs
administrations in the region are prioritizing environmental issues in their
agenda. This project will undoubtedly curb smuggling of environmentally
sensitive commodities and also facilitate the cooperation between customs
authorities and environmental agencies,” said Dr. Sathit Limpongpan, Director
General of the Department of Thai Customs. “It is obvious that Customs is a
forefront agency and key stakeholder in fighting against the illegal trade of
ozone depleting substances.”

While global efforts under the
Montreal Protocol have reduced the production and consumption of ODS by 90%,
the ozone layer remains fragile and under threat. The ozone hole that formed
in the southern hemisphere in 2005 was the third largest ozone hole ever
recorded, peaking at a maximum area of 25 million square kilometers. A recent
report released by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization indicates
that ozone layer recovery will be delayed by 5-15 years, depending on
latitude. By fully meeting their commitments to phase out ODS – including
control of cross border trade in these chemicals – Governments can help avoid
further delays in this healing process, the report said?

The approaching deadlines to
phase-out ODS and dwindling legal supplies are leading to rise in ODS prices,
creating lucrative business opportunities for illegal operators. While it is
very difficult to give an accurate estimate of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
smuggled in developing countries, there are indications of high incidence of
illegal trade. Illegal ODS has been seized in China, India, Philippines,
Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in the region. For example, in 2005,
88,291 kgs, of ozone-depleting substances were seized in Thailand, up 6,997
kgs from 2004.

“Illegal ODS trade, if left
unchecked, could undermine global efforts to phase out these chemicals. The
coming years will thus be important as developing countries phase-out their
consumption of major ODS to achieve compliance with the Montreal Protocol,”
said Surendra Shrestha, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and
the Pacific.

Moreover, it is estimated that
some 300–500 million tons of hazardous waste are produced annually. As
regulations governing the safe and proper disposal of hazardous waste tighten,
increasing handling charges and decreasing safe disposal capacity, much of the
waste is suspected to be dumped illegally.

During the 11th World Customs
Organization Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Heads of Customs
Administrations held in Beijing on 3-6 April 2006, the meeting unanimously
agreed to initiate “Project Sky-Hole-Patching”. A proposed plan of action of
the project was adopted during the 4th Joint Southeast Asia and Pacific/South
Asia Customs-ODS Officers Cooperation Workshop held in Bangkok on May 17-20

The operation will be conducted
in two phases with the first six-month phase focussing on ODS. The second
phase will include hazardous waste. RILO A/P and UNEP ROAP CAP will facilitate
the operation for the region in consultation with involved regional and
international institutions dealing with ODS and dangerous waste.

For more information, please

Ms. Satwant Kaur, UNEP Regional
Information Officer, Tel: + (66 2) 288 2127; E-mail: [email protected]

Mr. Atul Bagai, Regional
Network Coordinator, South Asia, UNEP CAP, ROAP, Tel: 662 288 1662, Email:
[email protected]

UNEP Division of Technology,
Industry and Economics’ OzonAction Programme: http://www.unep.fr/ozonaction/

Green Customs Initiative: