IPEN statement on Illegal trafficking and dumping waste in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

14th September 2006 - During August 2006 an illegal shipment of toxic waste comprised of 581 tonnes of gasoline cargo residue contaminated with hydrogen sulphide and organochlorines was illegally dumped in Abidjan. This shipment which originated in Estonia was meant to have been disposed of in Amsterdam. However, the shipment was rejected in Amsterdam by the Netherlands Authorities to seek an alternative disposal destination because of complaints of “noxious smells”. Following this event this shipment of toxic waste was transported to Abidjan and illegally dumped in several dump sites around Abidjan. What followed is a human tragedy with over 10,000 poisoned people reporting respiratory and digestive health effects. By Wednesday 13th September, the toxic waste dumping has been linked to the deaths of 6 people.

We the International POP's Elimination Network (IPEN) and the African NGO community send our condolences and sympathies to the people of Cote d'Ivoire. We condemn this practice of rejecting, exporting and dumping hazardous waste in Africa which violates international agreements[1] and assaults human dignity.

Furthermore we, IPEN and African NGO’s recommend that:

1) Those responsible for rejecting this shipment of hazardous waste from Estonia and Amsterdam be investigated to determine if they are liable for contravening the principles of International treaties and conventions relating to the movement and dumping of chemical waste. If these parties are found to be in contravention of these conventions we call for strict penalties to discourage future practices of illegal dumping of hazardous waste;

2) Those parties responsible for this event in Abidjan also be investigated to determine liability;

3) Those who are found to be responsible must be liable to pay for a full assessment of the environment and health impact, the cleanup and remediation, health care, and compensation for those affected by this event.

4) We recommend a trust fund (from those responsible parties) be established under the Basel Convention to compensate the victims and pay for their long term rehabilitation.

5) We strongly call for inclusion of “Liability and compensation” and "Polluter pays" in the SAICM Global Plan of Action. These two important elements were excluded from the Global Plan of Action and placed in Table C in the “List of activities for which consensus was not reached at the 3rd Preparatory meeting for SAICM”. (SAICM/ICCM.1/4)

6) The UN agencies and the EU provide assistance to monitor the situation.

7) Any other trafficking of waste in the context international conventions must be met with strong penalties to deter future events.

8) We urge the African countries to properly implement the international conventions related to chemicals and hazardous wastes and call for holding the first Conference of the Parties of the Bamako Convention on the ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes within Africa.

Notes:

[1] Under the Basel Convention, the Bamako Convention, and the International Maritime Organisation Law, this practice is banned and illegal. This tragic event also violated the Rio Principle 14 which says that "States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health."