Date:04/12/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2005/12/04/stories/2005120406501000.htm
UNEP to launch
operation clean-up in Baghdad
|An assessment of hotspots is presented to Iraqi Ministry
Cyanide wastes to be removed, stored and treated
Details contained in report presented to Iraqi Ministry
Destruction of Iraqi military arsenal creating new contamination
NEW DELHI: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
will shortly launch an operation clean-up in a highly polluted
industrial site south of Baghdad.
The Al Quadissiya metal plating facility has been
found to contain numerous hazardous wastes including several tonnes of
cyanide compounds. The six-month programme will entail removing, storing
and treating cyanide wastes to reduce public health risks considered
Five other sites, details of which are in the report
`Assessment of Environmental Hotspots in Iraq', are among a list of 50
presented to the country's Environment Ministry. Part of $900,000
available for cleaning up the Al Quadissiya site may also be used to
detoxify the Al Suwaira pesticide warehouse complex, 50 km southeast of
Baghdad. Pesticide pollution there is also considered a potential public
The report warns that destruction of military arsenal
is creating new contamination and hazardous waste problems at scrapyards
and munitions dumps, which could be better managed with better working
practices and basic planning.
There are also recommendations covering the oil
industry's contaminated sites and a suggestion for establishment of a
hazardous waste treatment facility. Overall close to $40 million is
needed to meet the recommendations in full, according to the UNEP.
The assessment of the five sites was conducted in
April 2005 with a contribution from the Japanese government to the
United Nations Development Group's Iraqi Trust Fund earmarked for the
UNEP. These are the Al Quadissiya metal plating facility, built in the
1980s on 50 hectares on a flat plain between the Tigris and the
Piles of cyanide pellets
During 2003 the facility was damaged in ground and
air strikes and following the conflict "comprehensively and repetitively
looted". Piles of sodium cyanide pellets are lying dispersed. The
chemical was used in the hardening process for small arms such as
Several tonnes of the acutely toxic compound, lethal
at a dose less than one gram, is believed to be at the site.
There is concern that children entering the site
could be exposed by skin contact or accidental ingestion.
The four-hectare Al Suwaira complex, 1.5 km north of
the town of Al Suwaira, was used to store, mix and dispatch a range of
pesticides for 30 years. These included mercury, zinc and calcium
compounds as well as organo-chlorine and organo-phosphorous substances
such as lindane,
heptachlor and DDT.
After March 2003, the complex was looted leading to
smashing of containers and pesticides spreading around the buildings.
The site is now secured, keeping trespassers out.
The UNEP proposes to decontaminate the site,
vacuuming pesticide wastes and spraying warehouses to neutralise
The Khan Dhari Petrochemicals Warehouse facility, 30
km west of Baghdad, contained several thousand tonnes of refinery
chemicals until it was looted and partially burnt down in March 2003.
The Al Mishraq Sulphur Mining complex, 50 km south of
Mosul, is one of the world's largest sulphur mines. In June 2003 a fire
burnt up to 3,00,000 tonnes of stocks.
The last site is the Ouireej military scrapyard, 15
km south of Baghdad, which became the main dumping and processing site
for military scrap and destroyed Iraqi weapons.
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