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Assessment of the environmental impact of the Balkans conflict on the river Danube

Nairobi, 24 August 1999 - With the aim of assessing the environmental impact of the Balkans conflict on the Danube River, a team of nine international experts from the joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF) has now started its work. This, the third BTF mission to the region, is one part of an independent scientific and technical assessment of the environmental and human settlements impact of the Balkans conflict.

The current mission is organized in cooperation with the Vienna-based International Commission on the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), and the ICPDR Executive Secretary, Joachim Bendow has accompanied the BTF Chairman, Pekka Haavisto, in meetings held yesterday with the Yugoslav authorities.

Over the next few days, the BTF scientists - from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden - will visit potential pollution "hot spots" up- and down-stream of the Novi-Sad oil refinery, Pancevo industrial complex and a tributary near the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac. The team will also visit the Iron Gates dam on the border between Yugoslavia and Romania. The Djerdap reservoir holds extensive layers of sediment that can absorb organic matter, and toxic and hazardous wastes possibly carried down the River Danube. In this regard, samples taken from this site might reveal what Pekka Haavisto calls an "environmental history of the war". In an effort to assess the environmental condition of the Danube before and after the conflict, the scientists will collect sediment and water samples. They will also measure the accumulation of pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in living mussels, in order to get a picture of the possible toxic releases to the Danube in the hours immediately after the damage of industrial facilities. After the mission which ends on 29 August, the samples will be sent to independent laboratories for detailed analyses.

From 18-27 July, a BTF team of international experts visited the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to assess the environmental damage caused by the conflict at selected industrial sites. A second BTF team, based in Pristina, is currently working in close cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on issues of urban management and rehabilitation, housing law, property registration and environmental management.


For more information, please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of Communications and Public Information Branch, Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: (254-2) 623292; Fax: 623692;
Sharad Shankardass,
Actg, Head, Media and Press Relations, Habitat.
Tel.: (254-2) 623153, fax: 624060,
Robert Bisset,
Office of the UNEP Spokesman and BTF Press Officer.
(in Belgrade, until 28 August, c/o the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Tel.: (381-11) 311- 1234; Fax: 311-2234; Mobile: 41-79-206-3720,

UNEP News Release 1999/92

Wednesday 25 Aug 1999
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