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UNEP calls for rapid action on Paraguayan toxic wastes

Nairobi, 8 June 1998 - In response to a just-completed interim review of the risks posed by drums of toxic wastes stored at the Port of Asunci"n, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today that urgent action is needed to contain the environmental risks.

The review, commissioned at the request of the Government of Paraguay, was conducted under UNEP/Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC) auspices by a team of French technical experts. It follows an earlier assessment by a UNEP/SBC consultant and was based on a technical mission carried out at the waste site in the Port of Asuncion from 13 to 25 May 1998.

Of particular concern is the current risk of flooding in the port area, which could lead to the contamination of the Paraguay River and downstream areas. While the El Nino event has caused droughts in other parts of Latin America and indeed the world, in Paraguay it has caused heavy rains.

"As with the recent forest fires in Indonesia and Brazil, this toxic waste crisis demonstrates how human actions and natural events can combine in unexpected and negative ways," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP. "We must do everything possible to ensure the safe handling and destruction of these dangerous and unwanted wastes," he said.

The expert team examined the contents of the drums to determine their toxicity. Their interim report proposes a number of specific technical solutions to minimize the environmental effects of the toxic waste site. The final technical report, which will contain the results of sample analyses carried out in France will be submitted to Paraguay authorities via the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and the UNEP.

UNEP News Release 1998/60

For more information, please contact:

Dr. I. Rummel-Bulska
Executive Secretary
Secretariat of the Basel Convention
15 chemin des Anemones
1219 Chatelaine-Geneve
Tel.41.22.979.92.18
Fax.41.22.797.34.54
Email: bulskai@unep.ch

Note to Editors: The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was signed in 1989. Having adopted an amendment in September 1995 to ban the export of Hazardous wastes from OECD countries, EU, Liechtenstein to developing countries, the Parties to the Convention have been involved in defining the wastes which must be considered hazardous. The Basel Convention has 119 Contracting Parties, 118 States Parties and 1 Economic Integrated Organization. The Secretariat of the Basel Convention is based in Geneva.


For more information:
Mr. Tore J. Brevik
Director,
Information and Public Affairs
Tel: (254-2) 62 3292
Fax: (254-2) 62 3692
E-mail: Tore.Brevik@unep.org

Tuesday 09 Jun 1998
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