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

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.