UNEP Press Release
For Information only
Not an official record
Jointly issued by UNEP and Habitat

UNEP-led Balkans Task Force Biodiversity Mission
leaves for Serbia and Montenegro

Final field assessment of the environmental consequences
of the Balkans conflict begins tomorrow

GENEVA, 6 September 1999 – The last team of international scientists from the joint UN Environment Programme (UNEP)/UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF) leaves for Serbia and Montenegro tomorrow. This, the final BTF expert field mission to the region, is one part of on an independent scientific and technical assessment of the environmental and human settlements impact of the Balkans conflict.

The team of five BTF scientists – from Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, and Slovakia - will assess the damage to biological diversity in protected areas in the region. Planned locations to be visited include: Fruska Gora national park near Novi Sad, Kopaonik national park, Zlatibor, and Lake Skadar in Montenegro.

Approximately 4% of Yugoslavia is classified as a nature protected area, in the form of national parks, Ramsar (the Wetlands Convention) or World Heritage sites. It has been reported that the conflict may have had a direct impact on the plant and animal populations in these areas with possible negative consequences for the region’s biological diversity. The BTF scientists will gather relevant information on the pre-conflict status of these areas and also visit selected sites in order to collect data and assess first-hand the current situation.

The report on impact on biological diversity will complement earlier BTF missions to the region. In July, a BTF team of international experts visited Yugoslavia to assess the environmental damage caused by the conflict at selected industrial sites, and last month, another team visited Serbia to look at the possible impact on the river Danube.

In addition, a BTF team, based in Pristina, is currently working in close cooperation with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on issues of urban management and rehabilitation, housing law, property registration and environmental management. And, an inter-agency “Desk Assessment Group”, involving UNEP, WHO, IAEA and the Swedish Radiation Institute is looking into the issue of the use of depleted uranium in the conflict. Members of this group will forward their reports to the BTF later this month.

A final report on the work of the BTF – which will contain both the scientific findings and some practical proposals - will be submitted to the UN Secretary-General.

The BTF was established by the head of UNEP and Habitat, UN Under-Secretary-General, Klaus Toepfer, in May 1999 to assess the environmental and human settlements impacts of the Balkans conflict. The latest information on the work of the BTF can be accessed from the World-Wide-Web at http://www.grid.unep.ch/btf - the site contains detailed situation reports, maps and other materials.


Note to journalists: Pekka Haavisto, BTF Chairman, will hold a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Belgrade, at 18.00 on Wednesday, 8 September.

For more information contact: Robert Bisset, Office of the UNEP Spokesman and BTF Press Officer (in Belgrade, until 13 September c/o the Hyatt Regency Hotel on tel: (381-11) 311 1234, fax: 311-2234), mobile: 41-79-206-3720, email: robert.bisset@unep.org.

In Nairobi, contact: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on tel: (254-2) 623292, fax: 623692, email: brevikt@unep.org, or Sharad Shankardass, Ag. Head, Media and Press Relations, Habitat, tel: (254-2) 623153, fax: 624060, email: habitat.press@unchs.org

UNEP News Release 1999/BTF7

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