MOTHERS OF OYKAMAR
In our previous newsletter, we described the contamination of Tajikistan by stockpiles of obsolete pesticides dating back from the Soviet era. Here, we focus on Oykamar, one of the most affected villages. More than 2 000 m3 of the toxic insecticide DDT is reportedly buried in this former pesticide distribution center.
FSD is currently excavating contaminated soil and moving it to a safe storage place, away from any dwellings.
Here are some interviews with four women who live near the warehouses where the pesticides were stored.
How does the pesticide contamination impact your life?
“The smell is distasteful, especially during summer. Many children got sick. Many animals have died. This is because of the pesticides. They are dangerous, toxic products. We all know that they are toxic.”
Mounawar has been living in Oykamar for the past eight years. Her stepfather was the caretaker of the warehouses.
Do you know what the warehouses contained?
“Different pesticides. DDT, B58, B52...”
How does the pesticide contamination affect the villagers?
“We cannot farm the fields. We often have violent migraines. The smell never leaves.”
Mounawar’s family lives right next to a former warehouse. The yellow powder that can be seen on the ground attests the presence of pesticides.
Zolfia has lived in Oykamar for 11 years.
When did you realize there was a problem about the pesticides?
“After four or five years. My children go to school. We give them enough to eat for breakfast as well as for lunch, but several times, they fainted at school and fell on the floor. The teacher informed us and sent them back home. This did not only happen to my children, but also to my neighbor’s children, who are in the same school.”
“Decontaminating the site is very important. We cannot be relocated, we spent lots of money here. My husband is sick at the moment and was the only breadwinner, so if the government wants to relocate us, I don’t know how we will survive. ”
Salmanjoon comes from Komsangir, a neighbouring village, and has been living in Oykamar for 10 years. Her house is very close to one of the main warehouses containing the obsolete pesticides.
How visible is the pesticide contamination in the village?
“You can see it especially during the winter: there are three heavily contaminated areas where the pesticides were stored. When it rains or when It snows, the colour of the soil changes to a yellowish tint. There is always a terrible smell here. Everyone has headaches.”
How is your family impacted by the pesticides?
“One of my daughters has a skin disease, she is 15 years old. Some of my children felt sick and fainted at school.”
Note: Oykamar residents’ reported medical conditions have not yet been formally linked to their exposure to the obsolete pesticides. It is however known that the latter contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants aims at eliminating or restricting their production and use.
FSD’s pesticide remediation project in Tajikistan is carried out in collaboration with the Dutch environmental company Tauw and supported by various private donors and foundations.