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UNEP releases first toxic hot spot survey

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the findings of its first survey of environmental ‘hot spots’ in Iraq.

A list of 50 sites was presented by the Iraqi Ministry of the Environment for consideration and selection. The report points out that the country ‘has a significant legacy of contaminated and derelict industrial and military sites.’ It also warns that the destruction of the Iraqi military arsenal is creating new contamination and hazardous waste problems at scrap yards and munitions dumps, which could be better managed through better working practices and basic planning.

There are also recommendations covering the oil industry’s contaminated sites and one for the establishment of a hazardous waste treatment facility. Overall, close to $40 million is needed to meet the report’s recommendations in full.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, said: “Wars, conflicts, instability and the poor environmental management of the previous regime have the left their scars on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi environment. If the country is to have a brighter and less risky future it is incumbent on the international community to help the authorities there deal with these pollution hot spots.”

The assessment of the sites was conducted in April 2005 and funded by a contribution from the Japanese government.

The analysis included the Ouireej Military Scrap Yard. Ouireej, a planned residential area situated 15km south of Baghdad, became the main dumping and processing site for military scrap and destroyed Iraqi weapons. It once held hundreds of potentially hazardous items including tanks and missiles containing unexploded ordnance and chemicals. DU rounds used by the US and UK have contaminated many of the tanks and personnel carriers with depleted uranium oxides. The UNEP team recommended that contaminated military vehicles be separated out from the general scrap at the site.

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003