12 Feb 2020 Press release Chemicals & waste

Bamako Convention: Time for Africa to move from decisions to action on hazardous waste

Brazzaville, 12 February 2020 – Parties to the Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa are coming together for the third Conference of the Parties (COP-3) to the Convention. The Conference runs from 12 February to 14 February 2020 in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo under the theme: From Decisions to Action: Working for Africa with a Safe Chemicals and Waste Future.

Hazardous waste in Africa poses substantial threats to human health and the environment.  African nations have long dealt with incidents involving hazardous waste dumping through importation or outright dumping. Unfortunate environmental disasters and the current piles of e-waste threatening the health of African communities makes the continent particularly disproportionally affected by the dumping of harmful chemical materials.

“The theme for this COP is a call to move forward and make a reality those aspirations which Member States have shared over the last two conferences,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative for the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Africa Office. “This requires renewed political commitment and the development of strategies, policies and institutional frameworks for the effective implementation of the Convention.”

COP-3 will provide a platform to discuss ways and means of ensuring that the continent moves from making decisions to action to rid itself of hazardous wastes and contribute to the achievement of a pollution-free planet. The Conference is also expected to discuss a roadmap for the transfer of the Secretariat of the Convention to the Republic of Mali.

  • In August 2006, the cargo ship Probo Koala discharged 500 tons of toxic waste in Abidjan killing 17 people and poisoning thousands of others.
  • In 1988 thousands of barrels of hazardous waste disguised as building materials were discovered in the village of Koko, Nigeria. Several barrels were unsealed causing leakage and serious health effects to the residents.

Established in 1991 by Africa nations and coming to force in 1998, the Bamako Convention is a response to Article 11 of the Basel Convention, which encourages parties to enter into bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements on hazardous waste to help achieve the objectives of the Convention. The Bamako Convention prohibits the import into Africa and the dumping or incineration into ocean and inland water of hazardous wastes, including radioactive waste; the Convention promotes the minimization and control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste within the African continent. The Convention also aims to improve and ensure ecologically rational management and handling of hazardous waste within Africa, as well as cooperation between African nations.

“Waste management is today one of the biggest challenges to our planet and a major concern for our countries because of its health and environmental consequences,” said Joseph Seka Seka, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development for Cote D’Ivoire and the outgoing President of Bamako Convention. “We have a collective responsibility to protect and save our environment and our common planet in the face of threats to the health and well-being of our populations, and to work in favour of an Africa safe from the harmful effects of chemicals and waste.”

Parties are expected to review and adopt the new proposed list of substances which have been banned, cancelled or refused registration by government regulatory action, or voluntarily withdrawn from registration in the country of manufacture, for human health or environmental reason.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Find more information on COP-3

Probo Koala Incident
In 2006, a Panama-registered cargo tanker, chartered by Trafigura, a commodities’ trading multinational, dumped over 500 cubic meters of highly toxic waste in Abidjan, killing 17 people and poisoning thousands.

Koko, Nigeria incident
In 1988, Italian businessmen illegally dumped over 2000 drums, sacks, and containers full of hazardous wastes in a small fishing village in southern Nigeria. The waste was claimed by the dealer to be fertilizers that would help poor farmers, but instead it turned into a nightmare. Few months later the containers started leaking causing stomach upset, headache, failing sight and death to the local community. The area around the dumpsite was rendered inhabitable and 500 residents were evacuated. People in the Koko village still remember this accident as ‘drums of death’.

About the Bamako Convention
The Bamako Convention was negotiated by twelve nations of the Organization of African Unity at Bamako, Mali in January 1991, and came into force in 1998. It prohibits the import to Africa and ocean and inland water dumping or incineration of hazardous wastes; establishes the precautionary principle; and provides for the sound management of these wastes within the continent.

About UN Environnent Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Mohamed Atani, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Africa Office: - Tel: +254 727531253.