25 June 2010 A new laboratory has been set up in the Ivorian port city of Abidjan to improve the monitoring of hazardous materials under a project backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that aims to prevent a repeat of a notorious incident in which thousands of people were sickened by toxic waste.
The laboratory, which has been handed over to Cote d’Ivoire’s environment ministry, is equipped to test for waste in ships entering the port, according to a press release issued by UNEP in Geneva.
The agency developed the laboratory as part of a joint project with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
UNEP said the project is the result of wider efforts by the agency to both improve waste management systems in Côte d’Ivoire and protect the West African coast from hazardous materials.
In 2006 the cargo ship Probo Koala dumped 500 tons of toxic waste, belonging to the Dutch company Trafigura, at various sites – including local waterways – around Abidjan, the largest city in Côte d’Ivoire. The liquid sludge contained large quantities of hydrocarbons and toxic substances such as hydrogen sulphide and caustic soda.
Official estimates indicate at least 15 people died, 69 others were hospitalized and at least 100,000 more residents complained of nausea and vomiting after inhaling fumes.
In a report last year Okechukwu Ibeanu, the UN Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, said some areas of Abidjan had still not been decontaminated.
He called for urgent steps to tackle the long-term human health and environmental effects of the incident.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue