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Basel chemical industry comes under scrutiny

Who’s going to blink first? The Greenpeace watchtower at the dumping ground at Bonfol

(Keystone)

The international environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has a new strategy to speed up the cleaning of an old chemical dumping ground.

It has leased a plot of land next to the Bonfol site in canton Jura on the French border and wants to pressure the Basel chemical industry into meeting the entire clean-up costs.

In a statement on Wednesday, Greenpeace said that as the dumping ground’s new neighbour, it objects to harmful effects on its land and is demanding that those responsible redress the situation immediately.

Greenpeace activists erected an eight-metre watchtower on which a giant eye had been painted. They described this as a message to the Basel chemical industry that "Greenpeace is watching you".

Activists have also planted symbolic forget-me-nots.

Matthias Wüthrich, from Greenpeace Switzerland, says the Basel chemical industry is obstructing the clean-up because it is not prepared to take on the total costs.

Alain Fourniret, from the French Green party, says the dump is also spoiling the image of the Basel chemical industry, which should start cleaning up "without discussion". He says the site presents a danger for French villages nearby.

On Tuesday evening the Basel chemical industry was optimistic that it could stick to the clean-up schedule. Discussions with canton Jura are underway to solve the legal and financial issues.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Greenpeace had previously occupied the Bonfol dumping ground five years ago.
Between 1961 and 1976 the site held around 114,000 tons of chemical and industrial waste.

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In brief

The Basel chemical industry (bci) is an interest group formed in 1962 by Novartis, Roche, Ciba, Clariant, SF-Chem, Syngenta, Henkel and Rohner.

The bci is charged with ensuring the safety of the three dumping grounds previously used by the companies.

The bci says infrastructure work on the Bonfol site should start in 2006. Actual work is set to begin in 2008 and last for four or five years.

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