Toxic clear-up starts in Ivory Coast

A clean-up operation to remove hundreds of tonnes of toxic waste from Ivory Coast's largest city began on Sunday, as the government tried to recover from a dumping scandal that has led to at least six deaths and cost two ministers their jobs.

    Protests over the toxic waste became violent

    A team of 25 waste removal experts began pumping the hazardous black sludge from the city's main rubbish dump, one of up to 14 sites across Abidjan that the UN says have been contaminated.

    The chemical refuse is a byproduct of a fuel shipment apparently dumped illegally in late August by a contractor working for a Dutch commodities company.

    The Ivorian government said that at least six people had died from exposure to the waste, while thousands have sought treatment at hospitals.

    A UN report said the waste contains a chemical called hydrogen sulfide which, in large doses, can kill people.

    The waste was discovered by residents who began complaining of a nauseating stench and persistent health problems such as vomiting, sore throats and headaches last month.

    The waste removal operation comes a day after a new 36-member cabinet was appointed. The ministers of transport and environment were replaced and several new posts were created.

    Resignations

    The entire cabinet resigned last week as a result of the dumping scandal, but almost all were reappointed to their posts.

    Rubbish has filled the streets of Abidjan as waste sites have been blocked off.

    Protests about the dumping turned violent on Saturday, when the house of a port official was burned down and the deposed transport minister attacked.

    Henri Petitgand, a spokesman for the French company removing the waste, said that the clean-up operation was expected to take two weeks.

    Donor countries are helping the government pay for the clean-up but Patrick Achi, the infrastructure minister, said those responsible for the dumping were expected to reimburse the costs.

    Under the international Basel agreement, which was signed in 1989 to protect poor countries from the dumping of hazardous waste, a country found responsible for the dumping of toxic waste must pay for its removal.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.