Global Outbreak of Toxic Waste Dumping Demands Immediate Enforcement of International Law
BAN Press Release
8 September 2006 (Seattle) –
The Basel Action Network, (BAN) global toxic trade watchdog, today called for immediate implementation and enforcement of the international law created in the 1990s to control and prohibit the human rights and environmental abuses of the international trade in toxic waste.
According to BAN, the recent dumping scandal in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa resulting so far in the deaths of three persons and 1,500 hospitalized that led two days ago to the resignation of the entire government cabinet in Abidjan is but one example of what appears to be an alarming resurgence of a waste trade epidemic.
This month another ship load of oily residue waste was exported illegally to the Philippines and seaports in Asia and Africa are daily being inundated with container loads of hazardous electronic waste as old computers, monitors, phones, and other cast-off electronic devices from rich developed countries. Much of this electronic waste is simply dumped or sent to primitive recycling operations that endanger workers and the local environment.
Likewise old ships are exported to horrific, dirty recycling operations in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A recent study released last week by the Indian government revealed that 1 in 6 workers at the Indian shipbreaking yards are suffering from asbestosis from inhaling hazardous asbestos waste from the ship construction.
“We’ve been here before,” said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network who has monitored hazardous waste trade for 17 years. “This looks like 1988 all over again but actually there is even more evidence now of death and disease from waste trade than ever before. Ironically today we have the international rules to control or prohibit such global dumping but we are lacking in the diligent enforcement and implementation of these hard won laws.”
The Basel Convention was adopted in 1989 largely due to African outrage over dumping incidents and schemes such as the infamous Koko beach dumping in Nigeria in 1987. The original Basel Convention which demanded controls on such exports however was seen by most countries as being far too weak to control the toxic waste trade which can involve great profits and potential therefore for corruption. Thus in 1995 the Convention Parties decided to create the Basel Ban Amendment – a total prohibition on all forms of toxic waste exports from OECD/EU countries to the rest of the world.
This amendment however, while implemented by the European Union, has not yet entered into global force and ironically many of the countries that are currently having their workers and environmental health severely impacted by hazardous waste have failed as yet to ratify it. These countries include, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Cote D’Ivoire. Some countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and South Korea have openly opposed the global ban. Worst of all the US, the nation that produces the most hazardous waste per capita, has failed to ratify the original Basel Convention let alone the Basel Ban Amendment.
Further, certain industries such as the shipping industry and the cell phone industry have, in recent years tried to circumvent or undermine the Basel Convention by claiming exemptions for old ships containing toxic materials, or for hazardous electronic devices destined for what is claimed to be “export for repair”. Industry would far too often rather externalize the costs of environmental management rather than pay for it at home. Indeed, the economic drivers of the waste trade are greater today than ever before. With toxic waste disposal costs rising in rich countries, the rich countries getting richer, the poor meanwhile ever more desperate for jobs of any kind make the waste trade imminently profitable if you can get away with it.
“Unfortunately if it’s easy to poison the poor for profit, unscrupulous operators and businesses will do it,” said Puckett. “That is why the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban were created -- to prevent the effluent of the affluent being foisted on developing countries. It’s now time for every nation to enforce those rules and end this environmental injustice once and for all.”
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, +1 (206) 652.5555 (office), +1 (206) 354-0391 (cell)
Sarah Westervelt, Basel Action Network, +1 (206) 652.5555 (office)
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