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U.N. conference tackles hazardous waste issue

Officials from well over 100 nations are meeting in the Swiss city of Basel to discuss further measures aimed at protecting people around the world from the dangers of hazardous and toxic waste.

This content was published on December 4, 1999 - 10:17

Officials from well over 100 nations are meeting in the Swiss city of Basel to discuss further measures aimed at protecting people around the world from the dangers of hazardous and toxic waste.

A key target for the delegates of the week-long conference, which got underway on Monday, is to approve a new protocol that will define liability and compensation in cases where waste disposal damages people’s health or the environment.

The delegates will also decide whether to improve the transfer of waste management know-how to developing nations and establish a fund that would assist those countries should they be faced with hazardous waste accidents.

“Adopting the protocol would be a major breakthrough for environmental protection,” said Klaus Töpfer, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, ahead of the conference.

“Greater efforts to minimise the generation of hazardous waste and its transport across borders, and the introduction of a liability and compensation regime would provide an additional safety net for the world’s most vulnerable communities,” he said.

Switzerland has been pushing the know-how transfer for years and has for instance helped set up a waste management training centre in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

The head of the Swiss Federal Environment Agency, Philippe Roch, last month praised the existing international monitoring of transports and disposals of dangerous substances but said that much still needed to be done.

It was for instance still very difficult to obtain reliable data on how much hazardous material is being produced worldwide each year. He said production was estimated at up to 400 tonnes each year.

Switzerland played a leading role ten years ago, when the Basel convention on the movement and disposal of hazardous waste was adopted in the Swiss city. The convention was set up following international outrage over the dumping of hazardous waste in developing countries by producers from industrialised economies.

The convention has been adopted by 132 states, including Switzerland but not the United States.





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