As we fight land grabbing in Africa we are concerned about leasing land not only for agriculture, but for toxic dumping. We need to be vigilant to make sure that this does not continue to happen and that people are aware that this is currently going on throughout Africa. Below are articles which show how easy it can be for people to acquire land for toxic dumping.
Africa, The World’s “Septic Tank”
This article examines toxic dumping in Africa in a larger scale.

  • 2004 tsunami hit the coast of Somalia that where it damaged toxic water containers on the northern coast of this country
  • Starting from the early 1980s and continuing into the civil war, the hazardous waste dumped along Somalia’s coast includes radioactive uranium waste, lead, cadmium, mercury, industrial, hospital, chemical, leather treatment and other toxic waste, UNEP wrote in a country report.
  • In Cameroon, about 5,600 litres (1,232 gallons) of chlorine were dumped in 2005 in a village near Douala, the nation’s economic capital.
  • The waste is often accepted in the country by people who are corrupt and are looking to buy weapons
  • There need to be stricter regulations in Africa’s ports to ships that arrive with toxic waste

Toxic Waste Dumping in Zambia
This article examined pesticide dumping in Zambia.

  • Zambia has seen a steady import of chemicals for agriculture and public health has been impacted since the early 1990’s
  • Due to a lack of legislation, the use of pesticides has not been regulated. This lack of legislation has also compromised the safety of workers who handle these products, and deaths related to pesticide use have been reported.
  • According to the State of the Environment Report on Zambia, approximately 200 metric tonnes of obsolete pesticides are stocked in different parts of the country, with a very high risk of polluting groundwater bodies.
  • Since Zambia lacks the technological capacity to destroy these huge cross-mixed chemical wastes, the only feasible disposal method is safe storage until the capacity is made available, but often they are not stored safely
  • Zambia has been chosen as one of the pilot study countries (Zambia in Africa and Mexico in Latin America and the Caribbean) for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)/Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) National Profile Programme. The development of a national profile on chemicals management arises from concerns about effects on health and the environment as a result of use of chemicals.

Transboundary Dumping of Toxic Waste
This article examined why Africa is being used as a dumping ground for toxic waste.

  • As live advances in developed nations it leads to more waste, which in turn creates a Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) attitude .
  • As regulations on disposal of the waste increases in these countries, they find the path of least resistance to get rid of the waste, and a common place for it to be dumped is in sub-Saharan African countries
  • They target this area for 4 reasons:
  1. First, most of these countries have relatively high levels of poverty, low Gross National Product (GNP) and high foreign debt, hence importing hazardous waste as a source of foreign exchange can be highly tempting.
  2. Lack of stringency of environmental regulations such as requirement for high performance and health-based standards for the design, siting, and closure of toxic waste disposal facilities, and the low level of implementation of existing policies are the norms in most of these countries. Toxic waste treatment and disposal facilities are built cheaply and without considerations for adverse health and environmental effects.
  3. high level of corruption is prevalent in sub-Sahara African countries hence government officials both elected and appointed, can easily be bribed to surreptitiously import toxic waste into their countries.
  4. most sub-Saharan African countries lack the technical expertise necessary for the proper identification of both the elements of the imported hazardous waste and its human health and environmental impacts.
  • The export and receiving of these chemicals is typically kept secret by the exporters by falsifying custom documents and invoices
  • When a transaction does become public it is denied by the exporters as well as the government that receives it
    • For example: The President of the Republic of Benin denied the report of an agreement, earlier confirmed, to dispose of substantial quantities of imported hazardous waste near the Nigeria-Republic of Benin border.

– there is a general lack of the awareness of the effects of hazardous waste and its residue and containers are used to store drinking water for humans and for domestic animals which has adverse health effects.
Trade in Hazardous Waste: Environmental Justice Versus Economic Growth
This article highlights the Basel Convention held in 1992 in Switzerland on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

  • The Basel Convention did not completely eliminate the transport of toxic waste to developing countries when it was created in 1992
  • Since then amendments have tried to be made to it that would restrict this however none of them have passed.
  • Currently there are only restrictions to what constitutes as “toxic” waste and how this can be transported. Some of these restrictions to the transportation include:
  1. Movement of waste is done with at least the minimum of sound transportation protocol
  2. The states have the right to prohibit the import of hazardous waste
  3. Movement of waste from one place to another can only be done when the place of export does not have the means to recycle or dispose of it properly ]
  4. Proper informed consent from importing country and each state of transit before shipment
  5. Prohibit the transportation if the waste will not be handled properly
  6. Re-import the waste, if the country that received it is unable to dispose of it in an environmentally sound manner
  7. Criminal sanctions for illegally tracking hazardous waste
  • There are many ambiguities in the basel convention which include the following
  1. The definition of “hazardous waste” and “environmentally sound management”
  2. A limited ban as opposed to a complete and total ban of the transportation
  3. Loopholes that allow hazardous materials to be exported for “recycling”
  • There has been a new shift to manage the “recycling” of waste, because this is being used as a loophole to export goods
  • A ban on recycling exports was placed in 1995 but faced much resistance and has been suggested to be amended
  • Many countries (including the united states) have refused to ratify this amendment all together
  • According to the agreement as it is, the export of hazardous waste from one developing country to another is not banned or limited and does not carry the same restrictions.
  • Until the ban is in place there is no incentive for developing nations to stop exporting their waste because as of now, considering they make revenue doing it this way

The Ticking Time Bomb: Toxic Pesticide Waste Dumps
This article looks specifically at the implications of pesticide waste and dumping.

  • The waste sites contain some of the most dangerous insecticides in existence.
  • Pesticides are not held in proper containers and are leaking into the ground contaminating the soil and the water.
  • Pesticide waste has been accumulating for over 30 years in some African countries
  • Many states had bought pesticides and then not used all of the product leaving behind the rest
  • Support from the industries who create the pesticides is essential so solving the problem because aid agencies and donor countries who are trying to fight this problem can not cover all of the cost. Those who make the product need to be held responsible for the proper disposal

By: Rebecca Short, Intern Spring 2016