Geneva, 24 June 2010 - In a bid to protect the coastal environment of West Africa from hazardous waste, a modern laboratory has been set in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to improve the port's waste monitoring standards.
The laboratory which was formally handed over to the Côte d'Ivoire's ministry of environment, is equipped to test for hazardous waste from ships entering the West African port. The laboratory will provide a new service to improve the port's waste monitoring standards and is an important outcome of a project by UNEP and the Basel Convention Secretariat to strengthen national waste management systems in Côte d'Ivoire.
Led by UNEP's Disasters and Conflicts Programme, the project was instigated following an incident in Abidjan in 2006, when several people are believed to have died and thousands of others reported health problems after liquid sludge, containing large quantities of toxic substances, were dumped in local waterways.
The incident drew international attention to the need to boost the capacity of many African countries to detect and manage hazardous waste, including the transboundary movement of dangerous chemicals and other hazardous waste.
The project began in 2008 with support from the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation, the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Government of Sweden and the Government of Denmark, and has included in-kind assistance from the Swiss Government's Spiez Laboratory.
Now operational, the new scientific facility is based at the Centre Ivoirien Anti-Pollution (CIAPOL) in Abidjan. CIAPOL staff received intensive training on techniques such as testing soil and water samples for potential contamination as part of capacity-building modules delivered by UNEP and Spiez Laboratory.
Among the project's other outcomes are a comprehensive assessment of the port jointly conducted with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and a Hazardous Waste Management Plan for the District of Abidjan, which involved extensive consultation with the country's hazardous waste sector and various government agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations.
The country-level model for Côte d'Ivoire, which aims to enhance the implementation of major conventions on hazardous chemicals: is now due to be introduced by the Basel Convention Secretariat in Gabon, Morocco and Madagascar.