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Ivory Coast Appeals For Help To Clean-Up Toxic Waste

Earlier this year, hundreds of tons of toxic waste were dumped illegally around the capital of Abidjan. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Gerry Smith
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
Ivory Coast on Wednesday pleaded for international help to pay for cleaning up toxic waste dumped in the capital Abdijan that killed 10 people earlier this year. The country's head of anti-toxic waste committee, Safiatou Bah N'Daw, said they needed help in paying 30-million-dollar (20-million-euro) bill required to clean contaminated sites since the country was "at the end of its tether."

N'Daw said the figure excludes cost of running health centers overwhelmed with patients suffering from nausea, rashes and nosebleeds caused by toxic sludge that "smells like rotten garlic and eggs."

"We find patients lying on the floors," she told a global hazardous waste conference in Kenya.

"Our people are suffering. What we want is for you to help us."

In August, hundreds of tons of petroleum toxic waste brought into Ivory Coast by a multinational, Trafigura, were dumped illicitly across more than a dozen open-air rubbish tips around the commercial capital of Abidjan.

The toxic sludge caused contamination blamed for the deaths of at least 10 people and left dozens hospitalized, sparking demonstrations in the west African nation.

The waste was later shipped to France for reprocessing but clean-up efforts continue.

N'Daw said the country had so far received a pledge of two million dollars (1.5 million euros) from Japan, 100,000 dollars (77,000 euros) from the World Bank and 40,000 dollars (30,700 euros) from the UN Development Programme.

She said much more was needed to remove the toxic chemicals that have contaminated drinking water and paralyzed fishing, agricultural and livestock sectors.

"This was unexpected, unprecedented and has had unforeseen consequences. We don't want this to happen again in another country in the developing world," added N'Daw.

On Monday, UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner pressed for urgent enforcement of existing laws to prevent a repeat of the deadly Ivory Coast incident.

"This case of irresponsible waste dumping in one of the poorest countries on the globe serves as a reminder of the importance of the Basel Convention and the need to re-invigorate and re-new its vital regional and global role," Steiner said.

The Basel Convention, which came into force in 1992 and has more than 160 state signatories, aims to protect human health and the environment from hazardous and other waste material by regulating its cross-border shipment and disposal.

During the five-day conference in Nairobi, Basel signatories are being urged to ratify the convention's Liability and Compensation Protocol that creates a fund to help affected countries get compensation from illegal toxic waste dumping.

Thus far, only seven of the 20 nations needed to ratify the protocol have done so and an emergency fund set up in the interim has only received 270,000 dollars (207,000 euros) in donations, according to Steiner.

According to a 2005 report by the European Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), trade in illegal dumping of toxic wastes has risen steadily.

A joint enforcement operation carried out in that year in 17 European seaports examined 3,000 shipping documents and physically inspected 258 cargo holds discovered the widespread illegality of the trade.

Of 140 waste shipments found, 68, or 48 percent, turned out to be illegal, the report said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Jakarta (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
A mud spurt which began when villagers were drilling for water on the Indonesian part of Borneo contains toxic substances, but local officials are powerless until the central government intervenes, an official said Wednesday. Four men were drilling a well in Kolam Kanan village in South Kalimantan on November 22, when a stream of mud and water sprang up.

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