ISSN 2330-717X

Chemical Weapons Convention: Dumped Weapons Beyond The Border – Analysis

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By Shakir Baacha

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was first opened for signatures in 1993 and entered into force in 1997. Currently 188 countries are signatories to the “Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons”. These countries agreed “not to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or retain Chemical weapons or to transfer them”. Furthermore, States are prohibited from participating or preparing to use chemical weapons, and bound to destroy any chemical weapons in stock. Pakistan signed the CWC on 13th January, 1993 and deposited all its chemical weapons on 28th October, 1997.Whereas CWC entered into force on 27th Nov, 1997. [1]

Chemical and biological weapons (CBW) are perceived as a threat more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons are different in nature from the nuclear weapons because they can be obtained easily. RAW material for the majority of chemicals and the dual use of different chemical makes them easily available.[2]

The problem with the chemical weapons is the destruction and the maintenance of chemicals itself. With passage of time large quantities of chemical weapons stored in containers corrode, leading to increase in the rate of release of chemicals attached to them. Even enormous amount of toxic chemical compounds undergo degradation which are toxic, but some chemicals have low toxicity, and some have high.[3]

Buried munitions of chemical weapons pose threat to the environment and if dumped in sea, cause severe effect on marine life in surroundings of the dumping site. Once the chemical containers leak and corrosion of munitions starts, it contaminates surrounding soil and even the surrounding water sources. Sea dumping of chemical munitions is an easy way to get rid of, which causes a number of problems. There are some of the dumping sites in sea, in each of these area’s surroundings, dumped chemical weapons caused serious problems to the fishes and other marine animals.

There are many factors that may intervene in completing the process of destruction. Issues that normally considered are the high cost of chemicals, industries involved in safety, environmental factors, legal and political factors.[4]

If weapons are found any where in sea or dumped in soil, most difficult task would be to remove them from that particular area without damaging the water and marine life. Though there are advance techniques to neutralize them but there is no technique to totally eliminate the risk for the life at that particular site[5]. This option also risks to workers who remove and transport the weapons, or an accidental release during disposal of weapons in populated areas can pose new risks. Regardless of destination options, the practical feasibility of responding to potential risks is limited by many natural challenges.

What ever option is desired, it is perceived as more and more weapons are dumped at sea without proper identification of limitations and challenges, it is likely that ocean would have more chemical weapons and pollution beyond borders as a threat not only to marine life but to human life as well.

The writer is research fellow at SASSI. He holds Master degree in Strategic and Nuclear studies from National Defence University Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

[1] Chemical weapons convention on the prohibition of the development production, stockpiling and the use of chemical weapons and their destruction by OPCW (http://www.opcw.org/chemical-weapons-convention/download-the-cwc/) retrieved at 10th July, 2011.

[2] Szarejko, Aleksandra and Namieśnik, Jacek(2009) ‘The Baltic Sea as a dumping site of chemical munitions and chemical warfare agents’, Chemistry and Ecology, page, 14

[3] Schulte, Paul(1999) ‘Chemical and biological weapons: Issues and alternatives’, Comparative Strategy,

, page 32

[4] Katsva, Maria(2002) ‘Russian chemical weapons: Proliferation or destruction?’, The Journal of Slavic

Military Studies,

[5] Ibid

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