|UNEP Press Release
For Information only
Not an official record
|Jointly issued by UNEP and Habitat|
The Balkans Conflict: Assessing the environmental Impact
of the worst damaged industrial sites UNEP-led
Balkans Task Force Mission Leaves Yugoslavia
BELGRADE, 27 July 1999 A team of international experts from the
joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/UN Centre for Human Settlements
(Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF) leaves the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia today after
visiting the worst damaged industrial sites resulting from the Balkans conflict. This, the
first full BTF mission to the region, is one part of an independent scientific and
technical assessment of the environmental and human settlements impact of the Balkans
Speaking to reporters here today, Pekka Haavisto, the former Finnish
environment minister and BTF chairman, said he was very happy with the progress made to
date, but that it was still too early to provide any firm conclusions on the overall
environmental impact of the Balkans conflict.
The team of 12 scientists arrived in Belgrade 18 July and visited the
Pancevo industrial complex (fertilizer plant, petrochemical factory and oil refeinery),
Novi-Sad oil refinery, the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, Nis (transformer factory),
Bor (copper factory) and fuel depots in Kraljevo, Prahavo and Pristina, Kosovo. Two mobile
laboratories (from Denmark and Germany) travelled with the group.
Looking for toxic compounds such as dioxins and PCBs, the scientists
have taken extensive soil and ground-water samples. These will now be sent to independent
laboratories for detailed analysis. In addition, investigation into possible earlier
pollution incidents and the gathering of relevant data such as maps, air pollution records
and amounts of existing hazardous wastes is helping the BTF to build up a picture of the
state of the environment before the conflict. Such detailed knowledge is a necessary pre-
requisite for making a credible assessment of the current environmental situation.
Furthermore, in many of the towns visited, "stake-holder"
information-sharing meetings have been held with members of the local community including
council officials, the general public, and representatives from public health institutes
and non-governmental organisations.
There is much interest from the international community in the work of
the BTF. Last Saturday in Helsinki, Klaus Toepfer and Pekka Haavisto briefed environment
ministers from the EU and candidate countries about the current BTF mission. At their
Council meeting in Luxembourg last month, the EU ministers had welcomed the BTF initiative
and called for the immediate gathering of reliable and verifiable information for
assessing the type and extent of the environmental consequences of the Balkans conflict.
Toepfer, the Executive Director of UNEP and Acting Executive Director
of Habitat met with the President of Finland, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, during his visit to
Helsinki. The Finnish government has contributed $500,000 to the BTF. Other countries who
have provided financial and in-kind support include Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
A second BTF team, based in Pristina, started work on 20 July. This
team, working closely with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is concentrating its efforts
on creating mechanisms for land title registration, resolving tenancy and property
disputes, and strengthening municipal (including environmental) administration and
Further missions to the region are planned (in August) in order to
assess the impacts on the Danube river; the regions biological diversity; and on
human health. A final report will be submitted to the Secretary-General of the United
Nations in September.
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 and maps.
|For more information contact: Robert Bisset, Office of the UNEP Spokesman and BTF
press officer (in Belgrade) on mobile: 41-(0)-79-206-3720, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|UNEP News Release 1999/BTF|