Ivory Coast must be offered technical and legal assistance

7 September 2006

Ivory Coast must be offered technical and legal assistance

The Netherlands must help the Ivory Coast to tackle the consequences of illegal dumping of poisons in the country. To date two people have died and 1700 have been suffered injury as a result of exposure to chemical waste exported to the Ivory Coast by a Dutch corporation. SP Member of Parliament and environment spokeswoman Krista van Velzen is urging that technical assistance for the removal of the waste be offered as well as legal assistance in bringing the culprits to justice.

The waste was supposedly destined to be expertly reprocessed when it arrived in the Ivory Coast, but in reality was simply dumped in the hinterland where it poisoned many of the local people, most of whom are desperately poor. “It had to happen some day," Ms Van Velzen observed, "When it comes to the transport of waste the relevant legislation is full of holes.” The Netherlands has the necessary expertise and experience in waste removal and given our country's involvement, should, in the SP's view, make these available. In addition, legal support should be offered in pursuing and prosecuting those responsible.

Waste, including poisonous waste, are often exported to developing countries where environmental and public health regulations are either weak or poorly enforced. The EU's Directive on Hazardous Waste, which governs the transport of dangerous waste products into, within and out of the European Union, makes no provision for inspection at the final destination. The government of the land of destination is, once the waste has arrived, responsible for its processing. "The problem is that a very poor country cannot afford to reject a single euro, even if earning it depends on importing poisons," said Van Velzen. "Moreover in a lot of poor countries there is hardly anything which amounts to a real governing authority."

The SP has long demanded a much stricter approach to waste and will later in the year publish a report on the Hazardous Wastes Directive in which abuses both within and outside of Europe will be brought to light. The debacle surrounding the "asbestos ship" Otapan, and now this disaster in the Ivory Coast provide recent examples of such abuses, but they are merely the latest on a long and sorry list.

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