Boost for hazardous waste management in Cote d`Ivoire

A new project launched this week by the United Nations Environment Programme will help the Government of Côte d'Ivoire and others in the region to manage hazardous waste, both within their countries and across borders. The initiative, funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, aims to help address the issue of systemic weaknesses in controlling the movements of hazardous waste between countries, as well as the management of hazardous waste and waste generated on ships.

The project addresses several important issues which were highlighted by the dumping of hazardous waste from the vessel 'Probo Koala' in Abidjan's residential areas in August 2006: gaps in the international instruments controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and waste generated on ships, unscrupulous behavior from some private operators, and the need to strengthen hazardous waste management capacity in many developing countries, including in Côte d'Ivoire.

As part of the UNEP initiative, a hazardous waste management plan will be developed for the District of Abidjan, whose inhabitants were directly affected by the Probo Koala incident. The plan will be developed in consultation with local stakeholders in the sector, based on verified data on the quantity and quality of waste, and taking into account the existing legal framework.

The project is being implemented by UNEP's Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch and the Basel Convention Regional Centre for French-speaking Countries in Africa, based in Senegal (BCRC-Senegal), in consultation with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

To address problems relating to the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste and other waste in the Port of Abidjan, recommendations will be provided, in cooperation with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), for the improvement of port systems and procedures. Various government agencies that play a role in the management of hazardous waste entering the port will also be targeted for training.

Recognizing that good management practices at home are ineffective unless coupled with a similar strengthening of management capacity in the region, the project will promote the coordinated enforcement of relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements in several African countries.

These instruments include the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Rotterdam and the Stockholm Conventions, the WHO International Health Regulations and MARPOL 73/78.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the activities will be undertaken by the Government of Côte d'Ivoire and the BCRC-Senegal in cooperation with the Basel Convention Secretariat. This pilot programme for Côte d'Ivoire is funded by the SAICM Quick Start Programme. It will then be replicated-initially in other French-speaking countries in the region, but with the possibility of expanding to English-speaking countries as well.

Finally, the project will study the feasibility of developing and implementing an early warning system between authorities in Europe and Africa, with the involvement of the International Maritime Organization.

This should be the first step towards a system whereby information on the movement of hazardous waste into Africa is provided to the relevant authorities in a timely manner, allowing them to take preventive or preparatory action for the management of hazardous waste.

Although the situation may differ in every country, the incident of the dumping of hazardous waste in the port of Abidjan has illustrated some gaps and shortcomings that may well be found in other countries in Africa. The consultation process between the Government of Côte d'Ivoire and several UNEP and UN agencies has helped develop a preliminary program of action to address these gaps.

This process could be considered useful to other countries in the region as well. In this context, a second phase of the programme which was developed in the aftermath of the Probo Koala incident in Côte d'Ivoire is being prepared for donors to cover eight vulnerable countries hosting port facilities in Africa. The capacity building programme (Phase II) would include similar activities to those undertaken in Côte d'Ivoire in each participating country.

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