Côte d’Ivoire: UN appeals for funds to help clean up toxic waste dumped from abroad

20 December 2006

Côte d’Ivoire is facing a funding shortfall of at least 15 million euros for the clean-up and rehabilitation of sites contaminated by hundreds of tonnes of deadly foreign toxic waste that was criminally dumped around Abidjan, its largest city with a population of 5 million, according to a United Nations update issued today.

Côte d’Ivoire is facing a funding shortfall of at least 15 million euros for the clean-up and rehabilitation of sites contaminated by hundreds of tonnes of deadly foreign toxic waste that was criminally dumped around Abidjan, its largest city with a population of 5 million, according to a United Nations update issued today.

“To date the world has watched the tragedy of Côte d’Ivoire unfold but has so far failed to assist with the financial support the authorities there so urgently need,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said of a mission by UNEP and UN agencies that has just returned from the West African country.

Mr. Steiner said it was time for international donors including countries in Europe and North America to demonstrate solidarity and compassion with the Ivorian people. UNEP has set up a trust fund for the purpose for cleaning up the waste which arrived on a ship from Europe in August, killing at least 12 people and leading well over 100,000 others to seek medical care.

A private company is shipping the waste and polluted soil to France for decontamination. Ivorian authorities estimate that 9,200 tonnes have so far been collected, costing 30 million euros to retrieve, ship and treat, but the Government has only been able to secure half that cost. A further 3,200 tonnes remain to be handled.

The crisis began on 21 August when the ship unloaded of 500 tonnes of petrochemical waste, containing a mixture of petroleum distillates, hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans, phenolic compounds and sodium hydroxide, into trucks which then dumped it in at least 15 sites around Abidjan. UNEP has determined that the dumping is clearly a crime.

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.

UNEP argues that irrespective of who will or who will not be held liable for this incident, people of one of the world’s poorest countries, who have already paid dearly for this irresponsible act of hazardous waste dumping, are now also being forced to pay the bill for removal and clean-up operations.

 

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