Hazardous wastes require ‘vigilance’ to ensure they do not cause harm – Annan
Hazardous wastes require “permanent vigilance” to ensure that they do not cause harm to human health or contaminate the environment, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said today in a message to a meeting in Geneva that is seeking to formulate an action plan to help countries safely dispose of dangerous materials.
“Since wastes tend to follow the path of least resistance, efforts are also needed to ensure that they are disposed of, as far as is practicable and sound, as close as possible to where they were generated,” Mr. Annan said in remarks to the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP 6) to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which were delivered by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“But of course, the overall challenge we face concerns more than disposal,” he added. “We must also minimize the quantity and hazardousness of wastes, including by improving the design of products and processes.”
The Conference, which is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow, is deciding on further action to alleviate the burdens imposed on society and the environment by hazardous and other wastes. Among the topics of consideration is a strategic plan running through 2010 aimed at accelerating concrete action to protect human health and the environment from hazardous wastes. The meeting also expects to adopt technical guidelines on the disposal and recycling of lead-acid batteries, plastic wastes, biomedical and healthcare wastes, and obsolete ships.
The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 and regulates the movement of wastes and obliges its member countries to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Governments are expected to minimize the quantities that are transported, to treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to where they were generated, and to minimize the generation of hazardous waste at the source.