Environmental Protection

12 Approaches to Clean up World's Worst Pollution

A new report by New York-based Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland highlights 12 successful approaches in use today to clean up some of the world's worst polluted places.

The results demonstrate that pollution remediation is one of the most effective ways of saving lives, especially those of children. Despite successes, the report notes that pollution cleanup is still just an emerging activity in developing countries. These success stories should persuade the international community to step up funding for similar remediation programs.

"The 2009 World's Worst Polluted Places: 12 Cases of Cleanup and Success" is the fourth report on pollution in some of the world's worst hotspots. It was compiled from nominations received from around the world and developed with input from Blacksmith's Technical Advisory Board, which includes leading experts from Johns Hopkins University, Hunter College, Harvard University and Mt. Sinai Hospital.

"This year, instead of listing the world's worst polluted places or pollution problems, we are focusing on the positive," says Richard Fuller, president and founder of Blacksmith Institute. "The takeaway here is that eliminating pollution is difficult but not impossible. The report shows that pollution can be tackled successfully. We just need the right resources and commitment."

The report includes modest local projects, like the cleanup and conversion of contaminated land into a children's playground in the Dominican Republic, to sweeping initiatives such as a 12-year, multi-billion dollar overhaul of Shanghai's Suzhou Creek. It also features two success stories with worldwide impact: the global phase-out of leaded gasoline and the international treaty to eliminate chemical weapons. These are highlighted as models of how the international community can work together.

The successes come from a range of approaches: old-fashioned techniques (such as the removal and replacement of contaminated soil) and clever innovations, such as a contraption for recapturing toxic mercury vapors. It also reviews technical methods such as chemical interventions, bioremediation and bioaccumulation, which can involve the use of cow dung, molasses and worms.

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