|UNEP Press Release
For Information only
Not an official record
|Jointly issued by UNEP and Habitat|
UNEP-led Assessment of the Environmental Impact
of the Balkans Conflict Concludes Work in Yugoslavia
BELGRADE, 13 September 1999 As the last team of environmental
experts from the joint UN Environment Programme (UNEP)/UN Centre for Human Settlements
(Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF) finished their field-work here today, BTF Chairman,
Pekka Haavisto, played down concerns of an ecological catastrophe, but said action was
needed to deal with the environment "hot-spots" identified by the BTFs
scientific assessment of the environmental and human settlement impact of the Balkans
"Pancevo and Kragujevac (towns in Serbia) are two hot-spots of
particular concern," said Haavisto. In Pancevo, there is an urgent need to clean-up
the 2 km stretch of heavily polluted canal which feeds into the Danube river and to remove
the mercury on the ground at the petrochemical factory. As for the Zastava car factory in
Kragujevac, we have recommended to the Yugoslav authorities the immediate removal of toxic
waste which is a serious threat to the human health of people working there," he
In July, BTF scientists visited Yugoslavia to assess the environmental
damage caused by the conflict at selected industrial sites, and last month a group looked
at the possible impact on the river Danube. An inter-agency "Desk Assessment
Group", involving UNEP, WHO, IAEA and the Swedish Radiation Institute has also been
looking into the issue of the use of depleted uranium in the conflict.
The BTF team leaving Yugoslavia today has been assessing the possible
consequences of the conflict for the biodiversity in protected areas in the region. The
experts have gathered extensive data and witnessed first hand the current situation during
visits to Fruska Gora and Kopaonik national parks, Zlatibor, and Lake Skadar in
Montenegro. Approximately 4% of Yugoslavia is classified as a nature protected area and
there were concerns that the conflict may have had a direct impact on the plant and animal
populations in these areas with possible negative consequences for the regions
"The initial reports from the biodiversity experts support our
broader conclusions on the environmental impact of the Balkans conflict," said
Haavisto. "There has clearly been some localised impact with vegetation damaged as a
result of direct impact from the bombs. Also, some endangered species in the vulnerable
highland areas may have been affected which is a cause for concern. However, the long-term
impact on the regions biodiversity will likely be minimal," he said.
"An issue of more immediate concern," continued Haavisto,
"is the amount of unexploded ordanance in the national parks it is unclear
exactly how much is there but its presence is hindering management and maintenance of
these areas which are key areas for recreation and tourism."
Mr. Haavisto also announced today that the BTF has completed its preliminary activities in Kosovo. Based in Pristina, the Habitat-led team has been working as an integral part of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on issues of urban management and rehabilitation, housing law, property registration and environmental management. Key issues like the establishment of a Housing and Property Directorate to deal with property disputes, as well as the need for developing guidelines and procedures for municipal operation have been included among UNMIKs priority action as a result of this work.
A final report on the work of all the BTF assessment missions and other activities will be submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in late September/early October.
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 11.00 on Monday, 13 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: email@example.com.
In Nairobi, contact: Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on tel: (254-2)
623292, fax: 623692, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or
Sharad Shankardass, Ag. Head, Media and Press Relations, Habitat, tel: (254-2) 623153,
fax: 624060, email: email@example.com
|UNEP News Release 1999/BTF8|
Contact the BTF Information Officer