UNEP Responds to Abidjan Hazardous Wastes Crisis
Nairobi/Geneva, 8 September 2006 – At the request of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is investigating whether the wastes dumped in the densely populated city of Abidjan are linked to illegal exports from Europe.
The Secretariat is also assessing where legal responsibility for the disaster may lie and whether the Convention’s trust fund can be tapped to support clean-up operations.
“The disaster in Abidjan is a particularly painful illustration of the human suffering caused by the illegal dumping of wastes,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“As global trade flows expand and tough domestic controls raise the costs of hazardous wastes disposal in developed countries, the opportunities and incentives for illegal trafficking of wastes will continue to grow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has confirmed that a request for international assistance was made on 4 September, based on a short- and medium-term response plan that requires $13.5 million. National authorities have indicated that they do not have the capacity to assess fully and mitigate the problem.
The OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section is monitoring the situation closely, has offered assistance to Cote d'Ivoire through the OCHA office in the country, and has alerted the European Commission and other francophone donors to the situation.
An inter-agency task force has been established in Cote d'Ivoire to coordinate UN agencies response to the situation and the Government's request for assistance. The Humanitarian Coordinator has requested a detailed emergency plan, focused on immediate priority needs, from the Government.
UNEP collaborates closely with Governments and local authorities in dealing with illegal waste dumping of this nature, strengthening local capacity to address situations such as the one unfolding in Côte d’Ivoire.
Under the Basel Convention, any country exporting hazardous wastes must obtain the prior written permission of the importing country, and a permit detailing the contents and destination of the wastes must accompany the cargo throughout its voyage. In the case of an illegal trade, the responsible exporter is obliged to take back the wastes and pay the costs of damages and clean up.
European Union law implementing the Basel Convention prohibits all exports of hazardous wastes from EU members to developing countries.
Note to journalists: For additional information see www.basel.int or www.reliefweb.int, contact Michael Williams at +41-22-917 8242; +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org; UNEP Spokesperson Nick Nuttall at +254 207 623084, +254 (0) 733 632755 (cell) or email@example.com; or Elisabeth Waechter at +254 207 623088 or Elisabeth.Waechter@unep.org