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BTA, 10 September 1999

Seventy per cent of pollution in Serbia predates the war, Pekka Haavisto, leader of a UN team of environmentalists, told Environment Minister Evdokia 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 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 Kraguevac. 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. Maneva briefed Haavisto on the findings of Bulgarian tests of the soil, air and water of the 50-km strip along the western border, saying that Bulgaria has no measuring equipment for dioxin. Maneva said the Serbian authorities had not replied to her enquiries about pollution of the Timok River, which runs along the common border, by the Bor mines. The Danube should be monitored jointly with Romanian experts but the more precise equipment needed for the purpose is unavailable in the two countries, Maneva said. The UN team will study only the situation in Serbia, Haavisto said. He presented an interim report on the findings to Maneva. The final report on the environmental damage caused by the war in Serbia will be ready in early October.

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