UN environmental arm launches plan to help Côte d’Ivoire clean up toxic waste

14 December 2006

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched an international mission to help Côte d’Ivoire finalize and fund a plan to clean up and rehabilitate sites contaminated by deadly toxic waste that was illegally dumped in and around the commercial capital, Abidjan, in August.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched an international mission to help Côte d’Ivoire finalize and fund a plan to clean up and rehabilitate sites contaminated by deadly toxic waste that was illegally dumped in and around the commercial capital, Abidjan, in August.

UNEP said it was offering its support because the Ivorian Government has been struggling to cope with the cost – estimated by national authorities at up to $30 million – of collecting and dispatching the waste to France for de-contamination.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, said it was unacceptable that a country where so many inhabitants live on less than $1 a day had to make choices about paying for the clean-up or the wages of hospital staff. The mission will work in cooperation with existing international fund-raising efforts.

“UNEP’s mission… will aim to have the finalized waste plan in place in the shortest possible time so as to address the current concerns,” said Mr. Steiner, who is also setting up a trust fund to provide a fast-track mechanism so that other nations can give financial support immediately.

The dumping of the toxic waste, which killed at least 12 people and led more than 100,000 others to seek medical care, began when a ship unloaded 500 tons of petrochemical waste into trucks which then dumped it in at least 15 sites around Abidjan. The waste contained a mixture of petroleum distillates, hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans, phenolic compounds and sodium hydroxide.

Under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which UNEP administers, any nation exporting hazardous waste must obtain prior written permission from the importing country, as well as a permit detailing the contents and destination of the waste.

 

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