- According to environmental experts, the December tsunami has resulted in "massive quantities of toxic waste, some of which is radio-active," currently re-emerging along the coasts of Somalia. It was presumed that these illegal toxic waste products, which had been buried in the Indian Ocean for some time, largely come from Europe.
Thus, Somalia is under alarm in these days for one of the most terrible collateral effects of the tsunami which, after having hit 6 countries in South-East Asia last December, also devastated over 650 kilometres of coasts in the northern part of Somalia, between Hafun and Garacad, causing around 300 deaths and over 18.000 homeless people.
A recent report by the UN's environmental agency, UNEP, highlights that following the seaquake off Indonesia, certain populations in the northern coasts of Somalia became affected with unusual pathologies, which can easily be linked to serious incidents of pollution. The symptoms of these illnesses include acute infections of the respiratory apparatus, mouth-bleedings and abdominal haemorrhages.
UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttal and Somali sources report on the wide-spread contamination through extremely harmful substances such as uranium, mercury and cadmium, as well as hospital waste products, and industrial waste contained in barrels which were at the bottom of the ocean, or barely buried under the sand.
The containers stem from previous illegal dumping of toxic waste close to the Somali coast. At times, the UNEP report said, these toxic containers were closed in the most rudimentary of manners. They were then destroyed through the extremely violent impact of the waves provoked by the tsunami.
This very serious situation recently prompted a Somali MP, Awad Ahmed Ashra, to launch a formal appeal to the international community asking for the area to be cleared of the toxic waste unearthed during the tsunami. Also Somalia's Environment Minister Mohamed Osman Maye recently addressed the issue during a press-conference he held "in exile" in Nairobi (Kenya).
- What is urgently required now is the intervention of expert that may establish the characteristics and origin of the toxic waste products ... and, thus, save what is still saveable, Minister Maye declared. Somali sources also commented on the fact that over the past years, the war lords received large sums in exchange for authorisation to burry toxic waste along the Somali coasts.
As the news from the recent UNEP report is becoming known, also global environmental groups are alerted. WWF-Italy Secretary General Michele Candotti this weekend noted that also her country had "a grave responsibility in respect of what is occurring in Somalia." Enterprises from Italy, Somalia's former colonial power, had played a part in the illegal commerce of toxic wastes, Ms Candotti pointed out.
According to Ms Candotti, "the post-tsunami effect could have devastating consequences for the entire Eastern Coast in Africa. Not only will the inhabitants of today see their health compromised by this, but they will also suffer from the damaging effects on fundamental activities such as fishing and agriculture and this will create an irreversible series of damages to future generations."
The WWF points out that it was "well known that many African regions have been used for years as true dumping-grounds by many European countries." Suffice it to remember that whilst in Europe the disposal of 1 tonne of toxic waste will carry a cost of over US$ 1000, the same operation in Africa will cost no more than US$ 8.
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