The scandal of the toxic waste dumped in the Ivory Coast first
came tolight on September 6 when the first casualties where
reported andprotests broke out on the streets against the
government, which wasblamed for allowing the dumping.
There is no doubt that the wastes are deadly. Four of the six
dead arechildren and 23 people have required hospital treatment so
far. Thefact that the toxic waste was dumped openly on the streets
of a city isshocking enough. The fact that the waste was delivered
by a shipchartered by Trafigura LTD (controlled by Dutch firm
Trafigura BeheerBV), who claimed they thought the waste would be
'properly treated' ina poor African nation raises serious questions
about why they sent itto Africa. The fact that international law
may have been broken makesit a serious scandal that such deadly
incidents still occur today.
Back from the past?
We campaigned long and hard for an international ban on the
dumping oftoxic waste by rich countries in poor countries, which
resulted in the
Basel Ban in 1998. So we want to know how the dumping
occurred, what was dumpedand who is responsible. A
full version of what we know to date isavailable but here is a
On 19 August, a ship called the Probo Koala unloaded a toxic
wasteshipment in Abidjan, the main economic capital of the Ivory
Coast.However it was not until the first week of September that the
incident came tolight. The Ivorian Ministry of Health announced an
extraordinarymeeting that led to the dismissal of its government on
As international and/or local environmental laws may have been
broken,we are calling for a transparent and thorough investigation
by therespective international and local authorities. The facts
behind thisdeadly tragedy in the Ivory Coast remain obscured by the
We continue to investigate the chain of events, but the lack of
transparency in the shippingindustry as a whole, and specifically
from Trafigura and various portauthorities, are hiding the facts
from the public.Official investigations on the national and
international levels areurgently called for to establish
liabilities, to indicate where nationsare failing to uphold their
international commitments and to make surethis deadly type of
export never happens again.
On July 2 the Probo Koala attempted to unload waste in
Amsterdam.Noting the strong-smelling nature of the waste and
probable toxic nature, harbour authoritiestold the ship that the
waste would be more expensive to dispose of. The ship refused to
pay extra treatment costs and leftAmsterdam. Where the ship went
between the 2 July and 19 August, andwhat it did with its toxic
cargo, remains unclear.
Once in Abidjan the ship unloaded waste supposedly to be treated
by anIvorian waste handling firm. In fact the waste, which appears
toconsist of volatile hydrocarbons, was dumped at 11 sites in the
city.Symptoms reported by those who come in contact with the waste
includerespiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, vomiting (including
throwingup blood), burns and irritation from the toxic waste.
Will anyone take responsibility?
Once it is established where the waste originated in Europe,
thatcountry could be liable to take back the waste. If the toxic
waste wasconsidered regulated under the Basel Convention and bound
for export,the Dutch Authorities could have prevented the ship
leaving with toxicwaste onboard.
While it is obvious that the crisis could not have happened
without thelocal public and private complicity, the company
Trafigura clearlyshould be the centre of an investigation into any
attempt to takeadvantage of legal loopholes and grey areas to
assess if itdeliberately broke the law.