Environmental Emergency Preparedness: Industrial Accidents In Toamasina, Madagascar - Scoping Mission April 2013

Executive summary

This report describes major industrial risks in the Toamasina city in the east of Madagascar, and provides recommendations to address a number of these risks. The report is based on a scoping mission undertaken by the Joint United Nations Environment Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit (JEU) and the European Union Civil Protection (EUCP) Mechanism from 8 to 13 April 2013 upon request of the national authorities in charge of disasters and risks management in Madagascar. Where relevant, this report also provides observations and recommendations applicable to the national level.

In the facilities visited, best available technology and good operational controls can in principle achieve a high level of prevention of industrial accidents. Chemical hazards at Ambatovy (a major nickel and cobalt processing industrial facility) and other sites are comparable to similar facilities elsewhere globally. However, in Toamasina, the proximity of urban areas to the industrial sites could make any major chemical release a catastrophic event, both for communities that are inadequately prepared and for public emergency services with very limited capacity to respond to chemical accidents.

Overall, the industrial risk situation around Toamasina is considered widespread and complex, with potential hazards present not only at pipelines, chemical storage sites and by road and rail transport, but also at abandoned industrial sites. A great variety of chemical products also enters Madagascar via the port, either in containers and drums or in bulk for subsequent shipment by road or rail.

The main industrial facilities visited have effective emergency preparedness and response programmes; however, the response capability of local authorities, including the general port, is limited. Greater co-ordination of public bodies, combined with further development of capacity in the first response services, would contribute greatly to more effective emergency planning. Authorities at local and national level also need to urgently reduce the vulnerability of communities through improved urban and transport planning. Increased community outreach undertaken jointly by industries and public authorities on emergency preparedness and planning should also be considered.

A recent positive development has taken place through the creation of the Local Commission for Management of Industrial Risks (CLGRI). The structure, mandate, and internal functioning of the Commission could benefit from further external support to fully tackle the emergency planning challenges in Toamasina. Specifically, it is recommended that the Commission develops a concrete plan of action and considers appointing a full-time technical secretary to carry out administrative tasks and project supervision. Furthermore, a small bureau of key partners should be appointed to assist the Chairman. CLGRI is encouraged to seek support from national and international stakeholders to bring this about.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at the Local Level (APELL) process is an appropriate model to support the CLGRI to implement its mandate. CLGRI together with national agencies should organise, as soon as possible, a regional workshop and seminar to start the APELL process in Toamasina and build capacity among local partners for emergency preparedness.

Since natural disasters may in some circumstances also damage chemical installations, industrial accidents have an important place in national disaster planning. FutureEnvironmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and industrial permits should be based, among other baseline information, on an adequate assessment of chemical and other risks.

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