Côte d’Ivoire: UN environment agency launches plan on toxic waste

Probo Koala

16 June 2008 – A new project to help the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and others in the region manage hazardous waste was launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The project is designed to tackle issues raised by the incident in 2006 when the dumping of toxic waste from the vessel Probo Koala in Abidjan left several people dead and caused 3,000 others to seek medical help, complaining of nausea and vomiting after inhaling fumes.

The UNEP initiative will establish a hazardous waste management plan for the District of Abidjan which will address gaps in regulations on the movement of hazardous wastes, unscrupulous behaviour by some private operators, improvement in port systems and the need to strengthen local capacities to handle toxic waste.

The project will be replicated in other French-speaking African countries in the region, with the possibility of extending it to English-speaking countries as well, and will also examine the possibility of setting up an early warning system between Europe and Africa, with the support of the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The initiative, which is funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, is being carried out jointly by UNEP and the Basel Convention Regional Centre for French-speaking countries in Africa.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, regulates international movements of waste and obliges signatories to ensure that wastes are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Parties to the Convention are also required to minimize the quantities that are moved across borders, to treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to their place of generation, and to prevent or minimize the generation of wastes at source. Strong controls on storage, transport, treatment, reuse, recycling, recovery and final disposal of wastes are also obligatory.

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