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EU urged to act on toxic waste dumping

June 18, 2010

by Guy Dinmore, published June 18 2010

Greenpeace is calling on the European Union to implement its own toxic waste prevention measures and on the United Nations to carry out an investigation into suspected dumping of toxic and radioactive materials in Somalia.

In a report, “Toxic Ships”, released on Friday, the international environment group releases previously unpublished documents and photographs from an inconclusive investigation by the Italian authorities into the suspected burying of shipping containers filled with toxic waste inside the foundations of a Somali port built at Eel Ma’aan, north of Mogadishu, in the 1990s.

“Banning shipments of hazardous waste for disposal to poorest countries is a laudable achievement,” Greenpeace says, referring to EU adoption of the Basel Convention. “Yet large amounts of waste are shipped from Europe and the US to Africa and Asia on a daily basis,” it says, noting that most are illegal shipments of electronic or e-waste, such as computers, cell phones and televisions.

It noted that the EU adopted tough regulations on e-waste in 2003 and yet, citing the European Commmission, it says almost 70 per cent is unaccounted for.

“Waste management is extremely lucrative,” Greenpeace says, citing a sector turnover of 100bn euros, providing up to 1.5m jobs. Europe generates some 1.3bn tonnes of household and industrial waste a year, plus 700m tonnes of agricultural waste.

A report last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the EU generates 8.7 m tonnes of e-waste a year and that African countries, primarily Nigeria and Ghana, “run the risk
of becoming the rubbish dumps of the planet.”

Separately, Donato Ceglie, a veteran “eco-mafia” prosecutor covering what is known as the “Triangle of Death” near Naples, told reporters in Rome this week that investigators recently seized containers of waste being shipped illegally to China, India and Pakistan. He said he could not yet release details of suspected companies.

Greenpeace commented: “Lack of enforcement, control and data collection on EU waste exports is common in all member states for the very simple reason that illegal waste shipments to poor countries save a lot of money to both business and governmental agencies in charge of monitoring the implementation of EU waste legislation.”

“The EU must finally implement its own toxic waste prevention measures, which are one of the pillars of the EU waste policy,” it urged.

A chapter of the 37-page report is devoted to Somalia and the release to Greenpeace by the Italian judiciary of its investigation, including photographs and transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations, into the suspected dumping of radioactive and other toxic waste at Eel Ma’an from 1990 to 1997 in a alleged deal called “Project Uranium” reached between Italian businesses and local warlords.

The inquiry was eventually dropped for lack of evidence as the Italian authorities were unable to inspect the site. In 2005, Giancarlo Marocchino, a businessman at the centre of the investigation, testified before a parliamentary inquiry into the deaths of two Italian journalists in Mogadishu and denied any involvement in waste dumping. He said the containers were filled with rocks only.

Greenpeace urged the United Nations to carry out an independent assessment into the alleged dumping of toxic and radioactive waste in Somalia.

Francesco Fonti, a former Mafia boss who is collaborating with investigators, told the Financial Times last year that he had personally dumped 3,000 barrels of toxic waste in or off Somalia. He alleged that secret services of various countries supplying weapons to Somali regimes were complicit.

Gaetano Pecorella, a senator and head of an Italian commission on illegal dumping, was reported this month to have voiced suspicions that Italian secret services had been involved in illegal waste disposal and requested the assistance of parliament’s security committee.

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