Termites are essential to soil health, but problems arise when they come in contact with agricultural, forest, or urban areas. The annual economic cost of structural damage to buildings from termites in urban areas is about US$15–20 billion worldwide. More than 450 species of termites are found in China’s populated areas, infesting wooden structures and tree plantations, and threatening critical infrastructure, including housing, non-residential buildings, communications facilities, and dams used for watershed management. Termite damage led to the collapse of the Dongkaomiao Dam, which washed away villages and claimed the lives of more than 180 people.
Since the mid-1980s, the government has supported coordinated termite control strategies to protect buildings, dams, and other essential infrastructure. There are more than 800 termite control stations in China and 10,000 operators involved in termite control, using chlordane and mirex, two well-known POPs. Because of the health and environmental impacts from chlordane and mirex, the government of China has teamed with the GEF to introduce viable alternatives to these dangerous chemicals.
In June 2006, the GEF approved a project to introduce alternatives to chlordane and mirex for termite control in three demonstration provinces (Anhui, Hunan, and Jiangsu). The project will also review construction codes and policies that promote use of alternative termite control methods, provide an institutional framework and training to government officials and termite control professionals on IPM, raise public awareness, and demonstrate the application and monitoring of bait systems without the use of the most hazardous chemicals. On a pilot basis, China used bait systems in selected municipalities in the three demonstration provinces in 2007-08, and is beginning large-scale application.
The project is also helping to prepare new national soil quality standards based on a risk assessment approach. China has committed to shutting down completely its production of chlordane and mirex. To achieve that goal, the largest chlordane and mirex plant in China was closed on December 31, 2007 under the China termite control project supported by the GEF. The plant had a production capacity of 500 tons of chlordane and 250 tons of mirex; and had been producing between 150 to 190 tons in the past years. Mechanisms are in place to guarantee that the closure is permanent and is not compensated by increased production elsewhere in the country.
Please visit the World Bank Toxic Chemicals website for more information.