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the case for cbrn security

CBRN risks and threats, natural, accidental or terrorist related, loom large on all nations of the world. These threats do not differentiate between developing or developed states. However, national priorities, level of poverty, economy and state of development, among other factors, would dictate the level of importance being given to accepting and addressing CBRN risks.

Institutional and Societal Vulnerabilities. In most developing nations, issues such as poverty, waste management, lack of health infrastructure, conflict situations, unstable governments, lack of good educational facilities, inadequate safety measures and rampant corruption at all levels, are issues that multiply the risks and vulnerabilities. While some countries are well aware of the CBRN risks and related national vulnerabilities, situations within the country may inhibit adequate positive action towards risk mitigation. These situations may arise due to lack of basic education on CBRN related health, safety and disaster management matters, and more. Therefore, awareness of CBRN threats and risk mitigation measures is a necessity across all levels, creating an urgent need to educate and train all concerned stakeholders.

Industrial Safety and Proliferation of CBRN Material. Growing industrialisation and increased imports, coupled with lack of or non-stringent regulations, create huge gaps in securing these assets leading to a multitude of toxic threats. Global movement of industrial material and chemicals has also added the issue of illegal movement of dual use goods. Un-checked and inadequately regulated cross border movement of toxic material and industrial goods poses a concern. Industries who trade, transport, or produce chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paints, dyes, plastics, adhesives, and the like, use many toxic chemicals are all vulnerable. Many do not follow industry standard safety measures, most due to ignorance, while some due to complacency and to save costs. The Bhopal gas tragedy (1984), uncontrolled radiological scrap disposal at Goiania, Brazil (1987) & at Mayapuri Delhi (2010) and the port warehouse explosions in Tianjin China (2015) and Beirut Lebanon (2020) are glaring examples. Some industries use rudimentary or outdated safety equipment not really fit for the purpose. There is a growing need to generate awareness and institute global best practices among such industries.

CBRN Terrorism. Recent trends show enhanced interests of terrorist groups in CBRN material. Syria and Iraq are such flagrant examples where industrial grade toxic chemicals have been used to cause large number of casualties by the ISIS. Clandestine efforts surfaced like the attempt by Al Shabaab cadres trying to stabilise animal extract Anthrax cultures. Reports of a smuggling network for radiological substances in the Central Asian region are prevalent as well.


Limited knowledge, complacent approach, and inadequate measures can lead to toxic disasters. To sum it all, every country, institution, and relevant stakeholder needs to be hands-on with awareness, policy formulation, capacity building and response regarding CBRN prevention and risk mitigation.

​That is where Col Ram Athavale can step in to help.

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