Boost for Hazardous Waste Management in Côte d’Ivoire


A new project launched on June 16, 2008 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will help the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and others in the region to manage hazardous waste, both within their countries and across borders.


The 2006 hazardous waste from the ship Probo Koala was illegally dumped in sites around Côte d'Ivoire’s largest city, Abidjan causing a health crisis. Photograph: “Probo Koala” © amsterdamsehaven from Wikipedia.

A new project launched on June 16, 2008 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will help the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and others in the region to manage hazardous waste, both within their countries and across borders.


The initiative, funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, aims to help address the issue of systemic weaknesses in controlling the movements of hazardous waste between countries, as well as the management of hazardous waste and waste generated on ships.


The project addresses several important issues which were highlighted by the dumping of hazardous waste from the vessel Probo Koala in the residential areas of Côte d’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan in August 2006:  gaps in the international instruments controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and waste generated on ships, unscrupulous behaviour from some private operators, and the need to strengthen hazardous waste management capacity in many developing countries, including in Côte d’Ivoire.

As part of the UNEP initiative, a hazardous waste management plan will be developed for the District of Abidjan, whose inhabitants were directly affected by the Probo Koala incident.  The plan will be developed in consultation with local stakeholders in the sector, based on verified data on the quantity and quality of waste, and taking into account the existing legal framework.

The project is being implemented by UNEP’s Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch and the Basel Convention Regional Centre for French-speaking Countries in Africa, based in Senegal (BCRC-Senegal), in consultation with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

To address problems relating to the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste and other waste in the Port of Abidjan, recommendations will be provided, in cooperation with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for the improvement of port systems and procedures.


Various government agencies that play a role in the management of hazardous waste entering the port will also be targeted for training.


Recognizing that good management practices at home are ineffective unless coupled with a similar strengthening of management capacity in the region, the project will promote the coordinated enforcement of relevant multilateral environmental agreements in several African countries.


These instruments include the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Convention for the

Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).


In Côte d’Ivoire, the activities will be undertaken by the national Government and BCRC-Senegal in cooperation with the Basel Convention Secretariat. This pilot programme for Côte d’Ivoire is funded by the Quick Start Programme of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).  It will then be replicated – initially in other French-speaking countries in the region, but with the possibility of expanding to English-speaking countries as well.


Finally, the project will study the feasibility of developing and implementing an early warning system between authorities in Europe and Africa, with IMO’s involvement.


This should be the first step towards a system whereby information on the movement of hazardous waste into Africa is provided to the relevant authorities in a timely manner, allowing them to take preventive or preparatory action for the management of hazardous waste.


Although the situation may differ in every country, the incident of the dumping of hazardous waste in the port of Abidjan has illustrated some gaps and shortcomings that may well be found in other countries in Africa.  The consultation process between the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and several UNEP and UN agencies has helped develop a preliminary programme of action to address these gaps.


This process could be considered useful to other countries in the region as well.  In this context, a second phase of the programme which was developed in the aftermath of the Probo Koala incident in Côte d’Ivoire is being prepared for donors to cover eight vulnerable countries hosting port facilities in Africa.  The capacity-building programme (Phase II) would include similar activities to those undertaken in Côte d’Ivoire in each participating country.




The 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary

 Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal


The 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal has two pillars:  first, it regulates the transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes; second, the Convention obliges its Parties to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner (ESM).


To this end, Parties are required to minimize the quantities that are moved across borders, to treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to their place of generation and to prevent or minimize the generation of wastes at source.  Strong controls have to be applied from the generation

of a hazardous waste to its storage, transport, treatment, reuse, recycling, recovery and final disposal.


The Basel Convention has 14 Regional and Coordinating Centres, with one or more operating on every continent.  The Centres develop and undertake regional projects, and deliver training and technology transfer for the implementation of the Convention under the direction of the Conference of the Parties and of the Secretariat of the Convention.


Recent years have seen efforts under the Basel Convention to develop a global strategy for environmentally sound waste management.  This included support for the launch of the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative, hopefully the first of several Strategic Partnerships in different areas of waste management.


Examples of wastes regulated by the Basel Convention:


Biomedical and healthcare wastes, used oils, used lead acid batteries, Persistent Organic Pollutant wastes (POPs wastes), chemicals and pesticides that persist for many years in the environment, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), compounds used in industry as heat exchange fluids, in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, sealants and plastics, thousands of chemical wastes generated by industries and other consumers, electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) such as mobile phones or computers, ships destined for dismantling and mercury and asbestos waste.



For more information on the Basel Convention, please visit




Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive



Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer


Nicole Dawe, Information Officer, Basel Convention Secretariat


The UNEP is responsible for the contents of this article based on its press release of  June 16, 2008.

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