Côte d'Ivoire urban hazardous waste dumping

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 11 Sep 2006
UNDAC Team:
Pierre GELAS (OCHA Regional Disaster Response Advisor, Nairobi) - Team Leader
Sander VAN DIJK (Environmental Expert, Netherlands)
Einar BJORGO (Mapping Specialist, UNOSAT/Norway)
Sally GRIFFITHS (OCHA FCSS Geneva)
With assistance from: Vincenzo ODDO (Medical Doctor, UNDAC member from Italy, based in Abidjan)

Associate Members:

Peter BAREMAN (Environmental Expert, Netherlands)
Rudolf WALDER (Hazardous Waste Expert, Switzerland)

Background
According to various sources, hazardous substances were dumped from the vessel, 'Probo Koala' on or about 19 August 2006 at a number of sites in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire. Abidjan has a population of 4 million people.

Initially six people were reported to have died and several thousand sought health care through fear of contamination or inhaling fumes. Symptoms included intestinal and respiratory problems as well as nose bleeds, nausea and vomiting.

The Government of Cote d'Ivoire requested international assistance in dealing with the crisis on 4 September 2006. As a result of the crisis, the Cabinet was dissolved on 6 September 2006.

On 9 September, an UNDAC team was requested by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Abidjan, to assist the UN and national authorities in coordination of the response to the crisis.

Meetings & Activities of the UNDAC Team

The UNDAC team was mobilized and deployed by the Field Coordination Support Section of the Emergency Services Branch of OCHA Geneva. Through the network of the joint UNEP/OCHA Environmental Emergencies Section, the Governments of The Netherlands and Switzerland provided additional environmental experts, which were associated to the UNDAC Team. The team arrived in Abidjan on Monday, 11 September, and undertook meetings with the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator, representatives of the UN system incountry, national authorities dealing with the crisis, the EU-MIC Liaison Officer and the team of French technical experts deployed to assist with scientific analysis. A full list of those met with is attached (Annex I).

During its meetings with representatives of the UN system, the UNDAC team was requested to:
1. Assess situation, environmental impact, coordination mechanisms and UN response strategy
2. Support EC-MIC and government strategy to mitigate the impact of hazardous waste dumping
3. Support removal of hazardous waste through mapping of sites and making recommendations to national authorities and Civil Protection
4. Provide maps and information to relevant actors, including database of sites and the private company contracted by the government to carry out remedial action in order to facilitate their tasks in this process
5. To advise UN Country Team on medium- to long-term action for monitoring impact of dumping on the community and propose Plan of Action to improve humanitarian/environmental response for future possible technological disasters

The UNDAC team met regularly with the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator and representatives of the UN system as well as the international humanitarian community in Abidjan to keep them abreast of the situation. In addition, UNDAC prepared a Question & Answer sheet for UN staff in Abidjan for informational and reassurance purposes.

Meetings with National Authorities

Ministry of Environment

A meeting with the Ministry of Environment identified the main priorities as:

1. Identification of all affected sites, including trucks used to transport the waste.
2. Removal of hazardous substances from sites.
3. Identification of two appropriate dumping sites: one for safe disposal of the hazardous waste; the second for general waste, since the main dumping site in Abidjan (Akouedo) was no longer deemed usable due to contamination.
4. Hazard mapping and monitoring of air and water (fresh and seawater).

ONPC - Office National de Protection Civil

The UNDAC team met daily with representatives of the ONPC as the focal point in the government in charge of identification and protection of contaminated sites. A lack of protective and appropriate technical equipment and expertise had hampered government efforts to carry out effective analysis of the hazardous waste (note: UNDP subsequently provided some protective equipment and material for fencing off sites to ONPC).

The ONPC was requested to gather information from all government entities to assist in analysis of the situation and identification of all sites, including trucks used to transport the waste. Maps were provided to ONPC and technical advice was given regarding their updating and the need for accurate hazard mapping as part of the clean-up operations.

These meetings were also attended by CIAPOL (the government entity dealing with anti-pollution) and CNTIG (Centre national de teledetection et d'information geographique - the national mapping authority).

Interdepartmental commission

Technical experts from the UNDAC team joined the OCHA Abidjan Head of Office at meetings of the interdepartmental commission dealing with the crisis at the Prime Minister's Office. The UNDAC team was invited to send a representative to the meeting of government representatives and consultants which took place on 14 September at the Prime Minister's Office with the private company being contracted to dispose of the waste. The report of the hazardous waste expert on the UNDAC team, who attended this meeting, is attached (Annex II).

Private Company contracted to clean-up polluted sites (Tredi)

In addition to the meeting of the interdepartmental commission with the private company mentioned above, further members of the UNDAC team met with the Project Manager of the company (Tredi) at the ONPC on 16 September and subsequently for further meetings.

At the 16 September meeting, Tredi reported on their experience of this type of work and their strategy for the clean-up, starting with site visits and assessments. The UNDAC team provided database of sites and maps to assist Tredi in the formulation of their depollution strategy and for presentations to their operational teams arriving with the requisite equipment. Priorities were to be the sites at Akouedo and Abobe.

Tredi reported their intention to conduct the clean-up operations in an open and transparent manner, to include clear explanations to the local population of what and how they will do this. Protection of the population will be of paramount importance and they have requested the government to place at their disposal an ambulance, escort and other vehicles. They will endeavour not to move people away from sites if this is possible.

The clean-up operations commenced at Akouedo on Sunday 17 September and are expected to last six weeks. The waste will be treated and disposed of in France with adequate facilities and according to international standards of safety and tracking.

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