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REC initiatives address cyanide decimation of Tisza River

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SZENTENDRE, Hungary, Feb. 16 -- In response to the tragic cyanide spill that has decimated the Tisza and other rivers of the Danube river system, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) is calling for a decisive, cooperative effort for remediation and a thorough investigation of the immediate and long-term implications of the event.

The Center will support every effort to deal with the urgent tasks in the aftermath of the disaster according to the relevant international environmental documents, especially the Helsinki Transboundary Watercourses Convention, the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, the Helsinki Industrial Accidents Convention, the Aarhus Convention, the Danube River Protection Convention and any relevant EU directives on industrial accidents.

For the past two weeks, the devastating industrial pollution spill has been passing through the Danube river system. The vast quantity of high-concentration cyanide and heavy metal effluent released from the Aurul gold mine site near Baia Mare, Romania, killed everything that breathes in the smaller tributaries in Romania and on the Hungarian and Yugoslavian stretch of the river Tisza. As the poisonous plume passes through the territory of five Central and Eastern European countries, entering the Black Sea through the Danube, it leaves lasting contamination in the riverbed, the subsurface waters and the biota.

The damage of a transboundary ecological disaster can only be remediated and restored by transboundary co-operation of all those who suffered from the accident, and those who share responsibility for having caused it. The REC calls on the European Commission to join in the effort of raising environmental safety in the region, especially in light of European enlargement issues.

The REC will mobilise funds to support the participation of citizens and access to information through environmental NGOs. The Center also offers its expertise to assist international governmental activities aimed at achieving restitution of the damages and prevention of further accidents. The Center will continue to facilitate the institution of environmental management with businesses, especially industries with high environmental risk.

For more information contact Mary McKinley, E-mail: mmckinley@rec.org. Tel: (36 26) 311-199. Fax: (36 26) 311-294.

Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe