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UN team chief: most pollution in Serbia predates conflict

BBC Monitoring European - Economic; London; Sep 11, 1999

Excerpts from report in English by the Bulgarian news agency BTA

Sofia, 10th September: Seventy per cent of the pollution in Serbia predated the war, Pekka Haavisto {name as received}, leader of a UN team of environmentalists, told {Bulgarian} Environment Minister Evdokiya Maneva.

The team, consisting of experts from Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, France, Sweden and Romania, is on a fact- finding mission about damage to the environment caused by the armed conflict.

The air in and around Pancevo {refinery} is polluted, but toxic substances have not entered the soil. Radiation levels in that part of Serbia do not exceed the natural background radiation, the team concluded. They described as hazardous the toxic fall-out within a range of 1,000 metres from places where depleted uranium bombs exploded.

Large amounts of dichlorethane and mercury were found in the sediments in a 2-km channel linking Pancevo's industrial area with the Danube. The levels of oil products and mercury in the sediments of the Iron Gate One and Two hydro-engineering complexes also exceed the maximum permissible levels. However, they are below the norm in the lower reaches of the river due to self-purification going on between the two complexes, with a total length of 70 km.

There still are no results from tests of sediments in the Morava River. Polyvinyl chloride was found in the soil of Kragujevac.

The environment around the Bor mines has been polluted for dozens of years, the toxic substances in it did not result from the conflict, said Haavisto, who left for Romania.

No high-risk pollution was established in Kosovo and Macedonia's border regions. Large amounts of refuse left behind in the refugee camps were dumped into sources of drinking water, the UN team found...

The final report on the environmental damage caused by the war in Serbia will be ready in early October.

Credit: BTA news agency, Sofia, in English 1451 gmt 10 Sep 99

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