Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa

Title Hidden Flow: The rising tide of European e-waste in West Africa
Director(s)  
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Danwatch
Length 5.11mins
Location West Africa
Keywords/tags Toxic waste
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBC-dWgElbI
Synopsis This investigative film produced by CI’s corporate watchdog partner   DanWatch reveals how a staggering 500,000 used PCs arrive in Lagos every   month – 75% of which go straight to landfill. This is just the tip of the 6.6   million tons of European e-waste dumped on the developing world every year,   despite international bans.
Reviews/discussion Greenpeace’s   supporting discussion:

How does it get to   Ghana?

Containers filled with old and often broken   computers, monitors and TVs – from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell,   Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony – arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea,   Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand   goods”. Exporting e-waste from Europe is illegal but exporting old   electronics for ‘reuse’ allows unscrupulous traders to profit from dumping   old electronics in Ghana. The majority of the containers’ contents end up in   Ghana’s scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers. Some traders report that   to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept   broken junk like old screens in the same container from exporters in   developed countries.

What’s the   solution?

While working computers and mobile phones   can have a new lease of life in some African countries, they create pollution   when thrown away due to the high levels of toxic chemicals they contain. This   is why we are pressuring the biggest electronic companies to   phase out toxic chemicals and introduce global recycling schemes. Both of   these steps are vital to tackle the growing tide of toxic e-waste.

Some companies are making progress towards   taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. However, Philips and Sharp stand out for refusing to accept that they are   responsible for recycling their old products. The stance of these powerful   multinationals is ensuring there will always be a digital divide that they   prefer remains hidden, a dangerous divide with unprotected workers in   developing countries left with the toxic legacy.

Behind the story

Mid-2008   a Greenpeace team including campaigner Kim Schoppink and photographer Kate   Davison went to Ghana to document and gather evidence of what really happens   to our electronic waste.

Source: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/

Links to other resources Earth Times: http://www.earthtimes.org/environment/waste/

Fabrice Babin’s 2011 film on e-waste in Ghana: http://www.javafilms.fr/spip.php?article632

The Story of Electronics : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G49q6uPcwY8&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=SP77CE8943362CB9B0

Welcome to Lagos

Title BBC’s Welcome to Lagos
Director(s) Solomon Sydelle
Date released (year) 2010
Production company BBC
Length 10.11mins
Location Lagos Nigeria
Keywords/tags Toxic waste, poverty, violence
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c
Synopsis First 10 minutes of the   Part 1 of the documentary.

Three part observational   documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most   extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, Nigeria

Reviews/discussion Economy: Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil   producer; more than half of its people live in poverty(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13949550)

 

From the program editor’s blog:

First   stop was the city’s main dump site, Olusosun. This definitely   isn’t on the tourist trail of Lagos, but then Lagos doesn’t have much of a   tourist industry at the moment. Some 5,000 people work on the dump, and we   were immediately struck by how organised and efficient everything was.

As well as all the   scavengers working behind the dump trucks, grabbing anything and everything   they could to re-sell to the re-processing factories, there were shops, bars,   restaurants, a mosque, a barbers, and even a cinema.

The longer we hung   out on the dump (it very soon became one of our favourite places to film,   because the people were all so friendly there) the more astonishing it   became. It turned out that the scavengers even had their own form of   democratically elected chairman, who sorted out any arguments or   disagreements.

The dump became   symbolic of everything we were trying to achieve in the films. It looks at   first sight like a rough, lawless, dangerous place, and most people in this   country will be horrified to see people working there.

But in actual fact,   through the eyes of the people who actually DO work there, it’s a   well-organised place where there’s good money to be earned. Decent, honest   people choose to work there, preferring a life of grime to a life of crime.   Some of them are university graduates.

They are proud of   the fact that they earn an honest living, and are making a better life for   themselves and their families through sheer determination and hard work.

We realised the   scavengers were people to be admired rather than pitied, and it changed our   whole perspective on the place. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, so why   should we feel sorry for them? We decided that the   films should celebrate their resourcefulness, and challenge our   audience’s views of what poverty is.

After the dump we   went to Makoko,   an extraordinary floating slum, where everyone travels round in boats. Some   people call it Lagos’s version of Venice.

There’s 100,000   people living on houses built on stilts, and after a week or so of drifting   around in boats, stopping at people’s houses and talking to them, we stumbled   across Mr Chubbey, who went on to become the star of programme   two.

He has 18 children   to look after, and is always on the look out for some scheme or another which   will help him make more money. He’s like a character from Only Fools And Horses, buying selling,   wheeling and dealing, doing dodgy deals and getting by on his charm and his   luck. All that’s missing is the camel skin coat.

The last film is set   on a beach right in the heart of the swankiest part of town. It sounds   idyllic – white sands, clear blue Atlantic waters, baking hot sunny days –   and in many ways it is.

But it is also home   to 1,000 or so squatters, who have built homes on the sand because they have   nowhere else to go. After a couple of trips, walking along the sands,   explaining what we were doing to the inquisitive children, we met Esther, a   sparky, intelligent, beautiful young woman who had been staying on the beach   for the last six years.

She lived with her   husband Segun in a little house which they had built themselves out of scrap   wood, cardboard and old tarpaulins. It probably cost them about £80.

But when Esther and   her husband started to have problems in their marriage, and it looked like   they were going to split up, they used to have terrible arguments about who   was going to get the house – every bit as vicious as they would be if they   were living in a mansion in Beverley Hills.

We realised then   that all our characters, wherever they lived, however extreme their working   environment, went through all of the same things which we do in the West –   love, heartbreak, marriages, births, deaths etc. It’s just that they live on   a different scale to us, in the slums of the fastest growing city in the   world, and with no money. This forces them to be more resourceful, energetic,   and optimistic than most people in the West.

And yes, they may be   terribly poor, but that doesn’t stop them being human and, if the films have   succeeded, then I hope they’ve succeeded in showing that.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c

Links to other resources Watts,   M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the black gold: 50 years of   oil in the Niger Delta. New York: Powerhouse.

 

The Curse of Black Gold film

Electronic Waste in Ghana

 

Title Electronic Waste in Ghana
Director(s) Greenpeace International
Date released (year) 2008
Production company Greenpeace International
Length 16.14mins
Location Ghana
Keywords/tags Toxic waste, dumping, neoliberalism
Link to film http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/
Synopsis The latest place where we have discovered   high tech toxic trash causing horrendous pollution is in Ghana. Our analysis   of samples taken from two electronic waste (e-waste) scrap yards in Ghana has   revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals.

                                                                       

Boys burning electronic cables and other   electrical components in order to melt off the plastic and reclaim the copper   wiring. This burning in small fires releases toxic chemicals into the   environment.

The ever-growing demand for the latest   fashionable mobile phone, flat screen TV or super-fast computer creates ever   larger amounts of obsolete electronics that are often laden with toxic   chemicals like lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants. Rather than   being safely recycled, much of this e-waste gets dumped in developing   countries. Previously, we have exposed pollution from e-waste scrap yards in China and India. Nigeria has also   been identified as a dumping ground for old electronics.

During our investigation into the shady e-waste trade, we uncovered evidence that e-waste is   being exported, often illegally, to Ghana from Europe and the US. We visited   Ghana to investigate workplace contamination from e-waste recycling and   disposal in the country.

In the yards, unprotected workers, many of   them children, dismantle computers and TVs with little more then stones in   search of metals that can be sold. The remaining plastic, cables and casing   is either burnt or simply dumped Some of   the samples contained toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as   one hundred times above background levels. Other chemicals such as   phthalates, some of which are known to interfere with sexual reproduction,   were found in most of the samples tested.  One sample also contained a   high level of chlorinated dioxins, known to promote cancer.

Dr. Kevin Bridgen, from our science unit,   has visited scrap yards in China, India and Ghana: “Many of the   chemicals released are highly toxic, some may affect children’s developing   reproductive systems, while others can affect brain development and the   nervous system.  In Ghana, China and India, workers, many of them   children, may be substantially exposed to these hazardous chemicals.”

Source: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/

Reviews/discussion Greenpeace’s   supporting discussion:

How does it get to   Ghana?

Containers filled with old and often broken   computers, monitors and TVs – from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell,   Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony – arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea,   Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand   goods”. Exporting e-waste from Europe is illegal but exporting old   electronics for ‘reuse’ allows unscrupulous traders to profit from dumping   old electronics in Ghana. The majority of the containers’ contents end up in   Ghana’s scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers. Some traders report that   to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept   broken junk like old screens in the same container from exporters in   developed countries.

What’s the   solution?

While working computers and mobile phones   can have a new lease of life in some African countries, they create pollution   when thrown away due to the high levels of toxic chemicals they contain. This   is why we are pressuring the biggest electronic companies to   phase out toxic chemicals and introduce global recycling schemes. Both of   these steps are vital to tackle the growing tide of toxic e-waste.

Some companies are making progress towards   taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. However, Philips and Sharp stand out for refusing to accept that they are   responsible for recycling their old products. The stance of these powerful   multinationals is ensuring there will always be a digital divide that they   prefer remains hidden, a dangerous divide with unprotected workers in   developing countries left with the toxic legacy.

Behind the story

Mid-2008   a Greenpeace team including campaigner Kim Schoppink and photographer Kate   Davison went to Ghana to document and gather evidence of what really happens   to our electronic waste.

Source: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni/

Links to other resources Earth   Times: http://www.earthtimes.org/environment/waste/

Fabrice Babin’s 2011 film on e-waste in Ghana: http://www.javafilms.fr/spip.php?article632

The Story of Electronics : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G49q6uPcwY8&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=SP77CE8943362CB9B0

Durban Reality Tour

 

Title Durban Reality Tour
Director(s) Pamela Ngwenya
Date released (year) 2009
Production company Malinga Productions
Length 28 mins
Location Durban, South Africa
Keywords/tags Dumping, toxic waste,   sustainability, informal settlements
Link to film https://vimeo.com/10374472

Durban Reality Tour from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.

Synopsis On 4th November 2009, the Centre for Civil   Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal led a tour of Durban that conveys   the gritty reality faced by ordinary Durbanites. This video documents the   highlights of the tour, including the ‘toxic’ South Durban Industrial Basin,   the tented community of Crossmoor and, on a more positive note, the   development of an organic community garden and biodigester in the township of   Cato Manor.
Reviews/discussion When critically‑minded people   visit Durban and seek out a ‘reality tour’ typically denied by the mainstream   tourist circuit, one of the stops is the Centre for Civil Society at the   University of KwaZulu‑Natal. Located at the highest point in Durban (the top   floors of Memorial Tower Building in Glenwood), the Centre introduces   sympathetic visitors to the work of leading social activists and environmentalists.   The sites that kombi‑taxis arranged by CCS reach include an inner‑city tense   with resistance to xenophobia and gentrification, the largest petrochemical complex   in a residential area in Africa, a variety of shack settlements and working‑class   ‘African’, ‘Indian’ and ‘coloured’ neighbourhoods, the hotly‑contested source   of Durban’s water at Inanda Dam, and the university environs.

Source: http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?10,14

John Vidal   in Durban, www.guardian.co.uk, Tuesday   6 December 2011: Why south   Durban stinks of rotten cabbage, eggs and cat wee

In the ‘centre of   toxic Africa’, residents say they can identify nausea, drowsiness, vomiting   and headaches by industrial sources.

There’s the metaphorical whiff of diplomats burning the midnight oil to   find a deal at the the UN climate talks. But 5km away in south Durban, the   air really does smell of rotten cabbage, cat wee and almonds.

With two crude oil refineries, South Africa‘s two biggest paper   mills, its biggest container port, a dozen chemical companies, several major   landfill sites and a huge number of factories together producing 80% of South Africa‘s oil   products and much of its industrial emissions, south Durban locals have   learned to identify the coughs, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting and headaches   they suffer by their sources.

Oil companies are said to create a stink of a cocktail of rotten eggs and   burned matches, a carworks reeks of ethanol and the vinegar smell comes from   a leather company.

(Contd…)

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/06/south-durban-industrial-pollution

South African   Environmental Justice struggles against “toxic” petrochemical   industries in South Durban: The Engen Refinery Case

This   case study explores the South Durban community’s struggle against   disproportionate exposure to a hazardous environment and sulphur dioxide   pollution, and at the same time, being faced with “clear and   present” health hazards linked to petrochemical industrial production.   To unpack the environmental justice challenges facing post-apartheid South   Africa, the case study examines the role played by the South Durban Community   Environmental Alliance in articulating environmental injustices and poor   environmental responsibility of the petrochemical industry in South Africa.

Source:   http://www.umich.edu/~snre492/brian.html

Links to other resources Africa’s Biggest Landfill Site: The Case Of Bisasar   Road | by Patrick Bond and Khadija Sharife: http://www.amandlapublishers.co.za/amandla-blog/patrick-bond/1196-africas-biggest-landfill-site-the-case-of-bisasar-road–by-patrick-bond-and-khadija-sharife

Uranium: a poisoned legacy

 

Title Uranium: a poisoned legacy
Director(s) Dominique   Hennequin
Date released (year) 2009
Production company Nomades TV
Length 52 mins
Location Gabon,  Niger
Keywords/tags Toxic waste,   mining, nuclear
Link to film
http://www.javafilms.fr/spip.php?article311

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_17odcH7RY

Synopsis A shocking investigation into uranium   mining in Africa. We visit three areas affected by the uranium industry;   Mounana where activity has now ceased, Arlit, where the mines have been   active for 40 years, and Imouraren, a future site.

French energy giant Areva pulled out of   Mounana, Gabon, in 1999. The uranium mine, Comuf, was closed down and covered   over. In fact, at a glance, it’s almost as if the mine never existed.   However, Mounana suffers from extremely dangerous levels of radioactive   pollution. The soil and the rivers are toxic; even the houses have a Geiger   count as much as 8 times the safe limit. They were built using radioactive   material. In Arlit, North Niger, we encounter similar problems, including an   abnormally high incidence of lung cancer. Now that Areva has left, the former   miners are left to pay for their own health care.

In spite of the horrific damage to local   populations at previous sites, another mine is being constructed, in   Imouraren. The result of a colossal deal between the governments of France   and Niger, this will be their biggest open mine yet. Areva claims that the   new mine will not poison the land, but local people are sceptical

Source: http://www.javafilms.fr/spip.php?article311

 

Reviews/discussion Wednesday 4 April 2007, by Saïd Aït-Hatrit in Afrik.com
Source: www.afrik.com/article11482.htm
Wednesday, scientists, jurists, doctors, and victims drew up overwhelming   allegations concerning uranium exploitation activities of the French Areva   Company in Nigeria and Gabon. Considered opaque in its information   management, the ex-Cogema is accused of knowingly exposing its employees and   the inhabitants of its mining zones to important levels of radioactive   contamination.

On Wednesday in Paris jurists, scientists, doctors (Médecins du monde), and   representatives of Victims Associations from the Arlit and Mounana mines in   Gabon, shut down since 1999, presented their conclusions stemming from three   years of investigation.

“We have very serious reasons to believe that Africans and French expatriates   became ill due solely to Areva’s negligence” in matters of health and   environmental protection, explained William Bourdon, president and founder of   the Sherpa Association.

The Nigerian singer Abdallah Oumbadougou had explained last November in   Afrik, during an interview, that he was thinking about leaving his hometown,   Arlit, 250 Km to the north of Agadez, because he feared for the health of his   family. Guizmo, his French musical partner in the Désert Rebel Collective,   had told him about a press report according to which the exploitation of   Arlit’s uranium mine by Areva (ex Cogema) could be responsible for the pollution   of drinking water and for numerous deaths in the region.

Broadcast by the private Canal + Channel, in 2004, it showed the Sherpa   International Jurists Association and the team of scientists from Criirad   (Commission de recherche et d’information indépendantes sur la radioactivité   – Independent research commission for information on radioactivity) during   their first mission in 2003, concerning the situation of workers from the   ex-Cogema in Arlit. Airlit is a city built in the 70s in the middle of the desert   for the exploitation of the precious ore that now has 70,000 inhabitants.

Radioactive waste “in the open air”

According to the accusing associations gathered together on Wednesday in   Paris, Areva and its subsidiaries – Somaïr and Cominak in Nigeria, Comuf in   Gabon – voluntarily left their employees in ignorance about the risks   involved with working in the mines.

“It was only in 1986 that we began to be aware”, explained Almoustapha   Alhacen, a worker in the Arlit mines and president of Aghir N’Man, the   Nigerian Association for the protection of the Environment. Founded in 2000,   it called for Criirad’s help in 2003 to evaluate the radiological situation   on site. “We saw our friends die and didn’t know why” he recalled.

After having failed to forbid the exploratory mission at Arlit, the Cominak   manager succeeded in confiscating the scientist’s measurement equipment at   the Niamey customhouse, according to the associations’ report. However, the   scientists succeeded in preserving some of the instruments and their findings   were conclusive: “The contamination level of the drinking water system is   well over WHO standards”, stated Bruno Chareyron, director of Criirad. The   scientific laboratory also measured the highly contaminated scrap iron on the   city’s market and noted that the radioactive waste (500,000 Becquerels per   kilogram) was stored in the open air “exposed to winds and all types of   runoff.”

Areva has no occupational diseases

Areva responded to the Criirad’s controls with measurements carried out by   its own experts who found no contamination of the Arlit water supply,   according to Bruno Chareyron, who regrets this strategy of pure denial. The   associations’ report claims that Areva’s aim is to make it impossible to   establish a chain of causation between exposure to radiation and the diseases   developed, which could be very costly for the company. For this reason Areva   has kept the results of its investigations secret, just as they did with   those carried out in 1986 at Mounana.

Jacqueline Gaudet spent 15 years of her life in this town. In 2005, she   founded Mounana, an association of expatriated former mine workers, “for the   simple and good reason that there are too many cases of cancer among   expatriates,” she explained Wednesday.

She herself lost first her husband, then her father and mother because of   cancer over a period of 10 years after having returned to France. Areva told   her that they were not responsible for her father’s illness and death from   lung cancer linked to exposure to radon, as he was insured for this illness   by the Gabonese social security system. Moreover she has had no access to   medical records. Under these circumstances, “it’s easy for Areva to say that   there was no occupational disease involved,” she sadly stated.

Sustainable development at the heart of Areva’s strategy”

On 16 March, anticipating the media hype prepared by the associations, Areva   announced its wish to create “health-watch programs on its mining sites”. “A   positive breakthrough that we should respond to with all the necessary   precautions,” stated Sherpa’s vice-president. As for Almoustapha Alhacen: “I   must admit that I don’t trust them as they are experts in publicity”, he   explained looking rather embarrassed.

In the press release announcing the proposal, Areva assured that they put   “sustainable development at the heart of their strategy”, and also   contributes to “having an answer to the important issues of the 21st Century:   the preservation of the planet and accountability to future generations.”

Sherpa, which already pressured Total into compensating Burmese workers, has   warned that they have at their disposal enough elements to be able to   initiate “one or several long and complex civil procedures” in France.

AFX News Limited:  Source : www.afrik.com/article11482.htm

Anti-Areva protests in Niger supported by several thousand people – AFP
09.10.07, 3:44 AM ET
PARIS (Thomson Financial) – Several thousand people took part in a   demonstration in Nigerian capital Niamey on Saturday, calling for the   departure of French nuclear energy group Areva from the country and also   opposing a claim by Libya to part of the country’s territory, according to an   Agence France-Presse journalist.
The demonstrators, who acted with government approval, marched through the   city and held a meeting in front of the parliament building.
For the past 40 years, Areva (other-otc: ARVCF.PK – news – people ) has been   operating an open-cast uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger, and an underground   one nearby. Areva obtained 43 pct of its uranium supply from Niger last year,   according to France’s Nuclear Energy Agency.
Niger, rated the poorest country in the world, is the third-largest producer   of uranium with a 9 pct global market share.
MP Sannoussi Jackou told the meeting the protest was against French   state-controlled Areva rather than the country or the government. The company   has extracted 100,000 tonnes of uranium without Niger getting the benefit, he   said.
The protest against Libya was in relation to a claim of ownership of part of   the Mangueni plateau, where oil prospecting is taking place.
Areva investment certificates fell 6.2 pct to 680 eur on Friday after plans   for the demonstration were unveiled, but an analyst with a French bank said   the key factor in the drop was an announcement by the chairman of Atomic   Energy of Canada Ltd that his company will target the Indian market.
Other reasons for the decline were a fall in the price of aluminium, the   making of which requires heavy use of electricity, and the previously   revealed delays in the construction by Areva of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power   plant in Finland, the analyst said.

Links to other resources