India is the only country that produces and exports DDT, with Africa being its biggest importer. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is an organochlorine substance which was first synthesized in 1874 but its insecticidal properties were discovered in 1939.
DDT has historically been one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, and today, it continues to be used in the fight against malaria and other diseases. However, as a result of its continuous use to help control parasites, insects such as mosquitoes have become resistant to it.
Exposure to persistent organic pollutants can lead to serious health effects including birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Such chemicals can remain intact in the environment for long periods. They become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health and on the environment.
In order to prevent further risks from the chemicals, governments adopted the Stockholm Convention, which came into force in 2004, with the objective to protect human health and the environment from such harmful chemicals.
There is therefore an urgent need for governments to come up with a phase-out strategy for DDT and other persistent organic pollutants, and to seek alternatives which are cost-effective, safe and promote environmentally friendly chemicals.
To help countries phase out persistent organic pollutants and develop sustainable chemical alternatives, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and India’s Central Pollution Control Board have agreed to jointly initiate a project that will help India and other countries reduce production, use, and consumption of DDT, and to thereby meet their commitment to the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.
UNEP will guide the initiative’s legislative processes, development of policy framework, and strengthening of institutional capacity of countries to help them meet their obligations of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.