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Toxic Dumpings in Somalia

Title Toxic Dumpings   in Somailia
Director(s) Mohamed Daud (Environmental   Justice for Somalia)
Date released (year) 2011
Production company EpicShots Studios
Length 14 mins
Location Somalia
Keywords/tags Neoliberalism,   toxic waste, dumping
Link to film
Synopsis Background into the TOXIC DUMPINGS in   SOMALIA that has been going for the past 2 decades. This videos illustrates   the main players responsible for the dumpings, and the complacency shown by   the western countries to this systematic rape of the Somali coastline.
Reviews/discussion The Ecologist, 1st   March 2009:


“Somalia used as toxic   dumping ground”

By Chris Milton

Pirates ruled Somalia’s   waves last year, but a greater crime is still being perpetrated by the   multinational companies using the mainland as a toxic dumping ground. Chris   Milton reports

The pirates of Somalia became bandits   of international notoriety during 2008, hijacking ever more prolific targets,   including arms ships, oil tankers and cruise liners, and extracting huge   ransoms from their owners.

National governments and NGOs decried   their actions as an affront to international maritime law, but few examined   the pirates’ claim that a far greater crime continues in Somalia: the illegal   dumping of toxic waste.

For more than 10 years, environmental   and human rights organisations have called on the international community to   act to stop this dumping, but successive wars have ensured the crisis has   only deepened. Now, as Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia and the piracy   becomes more subdued, there is hope the issue can be properly investigated   and resolved.

In 1997, in the Italian magazine Famiglia   Cristiana, Greenpeace published a landmark investigation into the   dumping, which showed that it started in the late 1980s, and exposed Swiss   and Italian companies as brokers for the transportation of hazardous waste   from Europe to dumps in Somalia. Subsequent research has also shown that the   company employed physically to ship the waste was wholly owned by the Somali   government.

When Somalia slipped into civil war   in 1992, the waste exporters had to negotiate with local clan warlords, who   demanded guns and ammunition to allow the dumping to continue. Many of the   ships, having brought weapons or waste, then became trawlers, and left Somali   waters with holds full of tuna for onward sale.

An investigation into the murder of   the Italian journalist Ilaria Alpi in Somalia in 1994 quotes the warlord   Boqor Musa as saying, ‘It is evident those ships carried military equipment   for different factions involved in the civil war’, and it is widely believed   that Alpi was assassinated because she had incontrovertible evidence of the guns-for-waste   trade.

The Greenpeace report briefly made   the news and was followed up by the European Green Party tabling a question   in the European Parliament about ‘the dumping of toxic waste from German,   French and Italian nuclear power plants and hospitals’ in Somalia.

It also prompted a large   investigation in Italy, a former colonial power in Somalia. This concluded   that around 35 million tonnes of waste had been exported to Somalia for only   $6.6 billion, leading the environmental group Legambiente to assert Somalia’s   inland waste dumps are ‘among the largest in the world’.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 served   to reinvigorate interest in the continued dumping of hazardous waste in   Somalia. Rusting tanks of unidentifiable ooze were washed up on to beaches;   villagers began to die of unexplained illnesses and coastal ecosystems   collapsed.

In 2005, the UN Development Programme   (UNDP) concluded its own on-the-ground investigation in Somalia. Despite   being stymied by local political interests and finding no tangible proof, it   concluded that the ‘dumping of toxic and harmful waste is rampant in the sea,   on the shores and in the hinterland’.

A year later the Somali multi-clan   NGO Daryeel Bulsho Guud conducted its own survey. With greater local   co-operation, it was able to identify 15 containers of ‘confirmed nuclear and   chemical wastes’ in eight coastal areas.

At the same time, the UN and World   Bank put together a Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) to plan for Somalia’s return   to functioning nationhood. Updated in 2008, it recommends $42.1 million be   set aside for environmental activities, including ensuring all ‘toxic waste   [is] found and removed’. It doesn’t address the cost of human suffering,   however, and ignores the fact that the dumping of toxic waste in Somalia continues   to this day.

Field research in Somalia by Zainab   Hassan, a former fellow at the University of Minnesota and Environmental   Justice Advocate, has brought to light a whole range of chronic and acute   illnesses suffered by Somalis.

These include severe birth defects,   such as the absence of limbs, and widespread cancers. One local doctor said   he had treated more cases of cancer in one year than he had in his entire   professional career before the tsunami.

‘Firms are illegally dumping   hazardous and nuclear waste,’ says Zainab Hassan. ‘The international   community should do something in terms of cleaning up, and those responsible   should be brought to justice.’

EcoTerra, an NGO with strong   connections within Somalia, agrees, though it refuses to name the companies   involved or their countries of origin. Possibly with one eye upon the   assassination of Ilaria Alpi, it describes the situation as ‘deadly’.

The UN’s Special Representative for   the region, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, is similarly sensitive. He confi rms that   dumping continues on the Somali coast, likening the situation to the shipping   of blood diamonds from Liberia and Sierra Leone. His office refuses to name   which NGOs he’s asked to investigate the issue, however, presumably for their   own protection, or the companies suspected of being involved.

Bringing those responsible for the   dumping to justice may be hard. Under EU regulations 259/93 and 92/3/Euratom,   the originating country is responsible for disposing of its medical and   nuclear waste, as well as for its retrieval if it is disposed of illegally.

With many of the containers unmarked   and much of the paperwork probably long since lost or destroyed, however, it   will take a lot to enable any legal action to take place.

In addition, a UNDP source described   the search for hazardous material in Somalia as like looking for a needle in   a haystack. It’s not that they don’t know it’s there, he says, but that they   don’t know where to start looking for it.

This makes it all the more urgent   that stability return to the country. Only then will the dumping stop and the   clean-up commence.

Chris Milton is a freelance   journalist

This article first appeared in the   Ecologist March 2009


Links to other resources ‘Environmental   Justice for Somalia’ can be found on facebook or at

One response to “Toxic Dumpings in Somalia

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