Press releases

Monday 21 Feb 2000

United Nations experts to begin scientific assessment of cyanide spill damage

Belgrade/Nairobi, 20 February 2000 - Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has advised that he is sending a team of international experts to Hungary and Romania to carry-out a detailed scientific analysis of the environmental damage caused by the recent cyanide spill from the Baia Mare gold mine.

The immediate dispatch of the UN team is at the request of the governments of Hungary and Romania and follows an announcement on Thursday by European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem that a task force would be set-up to ascertain the extent of the pollution caused by the cyanide spill into the Danube and other rivers.

Ms. Wallstroem announced the setting up of the task force during a visit to affected areas in Romania and Hungary. After productive discussions between Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of the joint UNEP/Habitat Balkans Task Force, and Ms. Wallstroem on how best to manage a coordinated response to the emergency, the UNEP Executive Director decided that a team from the joint UNEP/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Environment Unit will be sent to the area immediately.

The joint UNEP/OCHA team will be made up of international experts and using mobile laboratories will carry-out sampling and monitoring activities as a part of an objective and scientifically based analysis of the damage to affected areas.

The emergency assistance by the United Nations team will be carried out in cooperation with a number of international organizations including the Vienna-based International Convention on the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). As part of the coordinated response to the cyanide spill advocated by the Environment Commissioner, the results will be made available to all relevant parties.

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Note to journalists:
For more information contact:
Robert Bisset,
UNEP Office of the Spokesman and BTF Press Officer on
tel: +254-2- 623084, mobile +41-79-206-3726,
email: robert.bisset@unep.org.

In Nairobi, please contact
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of Communications and Public Information,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel. (254-2) 623292; Fax 623692;
email cpiinfo@unep.org

UNEP News Release 00/17.

Monday 21 Feb 2000
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