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• Conflict hot spots cleaned up

• UNEP-led Balkans Task Force to Continue Its Work in Yugoslavia

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Conflict hot spots cleaned up

UNEP closes environmental clean-up operations in Serbia and Montenegro

BELGRADE/NAIROBI, 7 May 2004 - Two of the health threatening environmental "hot-spots" identified for urgent remedial action in the wake of the Kosovo Conflict in 1999 have been satisfactorily dealt with.

The conflict related concerns at two other seriously polluted environmental "hot-spots" in the Republic of Serbia have been significantly reduced.

As a result fresh drinking water has been secured for tens of thousands people, hundreds of tons of hazardous waste has been taken away for treatment and environmental management capacities strengthened.

The findings are released today as a pioneering four-year environmental clean-up operation in the war town Balkans comes to an end.

Established in the aftermath of the Kosovo war, the $US 12.5 million United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) clean-up programme has successfully identified, assessed and completed the first UN-led clean-up of environmental threats as a result of armed conflict.

"Environmental conditions have a crucial influence on the success of efforts to rebuild shattered communities and livelihoods," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. "Only by ensuring environmental security can the wider goals of post-conflict reconstruction and human development be sustained."

"The closure of UNEP’s post-conflict activities in the Balkans is a positive signal. It demonstrates that, overall, South Eastern Europe is progressing from conflict to peace," he said.

Today, the clean-up programme is being officially handed over to the Government of the Republic of Serbia. As an integral part of the handover, the environmental authorities in the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro worked together with UNEP on a joint final assessment of the environmental conditions at the four hot spot sites.

The report, Assessment of Environmental Hot-spots Serbia and Montenegro April 2004, says that the conflict-related environmental consequences at Kragujevac and Bor have been largely dealt with.

It also says that in Novi Sad, the risk of serious contamination affecting drinking-water supplies have been substantially reduced and conflict-related environmental impacts are being systematically monitored. At Pancevo, the place that suffered the most damage during the war, conflict-related concerns have been significantly reduced, but important "pre-war" environmental problems have yet to be addressed.

At most locations the conflict related impacts represented only a part of the environmental and health challenges present, as serious contamination also pre-dated the Kosovo conflict, and there were long-term deficiencies in the storage and treatment of hazardous waste.

Note to Editors

In May 1999, UNEP established the Balkans Task Force with a mandate to assess objectively and scientifically immediate threats to human health and the environment arising from the conflict.

This was the first time that environmental issues had been recognized and integrated as a central part of the immediate United Nations post-conflict humanitarian effort.

In October 1999 UNEP presented its findings in the report entitled The Kosovo Conflict Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements. This drew a number of important conclusions on the post-conflict situation in the region and in particular singled out four heavily polluted environmental hot spots (Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Bor), for immediate humanitarian assistance.

Implementation of the UNEP Clean-up Programme was made possible by the financial contributions of the governments of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

For More Information Please Contact Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP’s Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 20 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: eric.falt@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 20 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson in Europe on tel +33 1 4437 7613, Mobile +33 6 2272 5842, email: robert.bisset@unep.fr

UNEP News Release


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UNEP-led Balkans Task Force to Continue Its Work in Yugoslavia


GENEVA/NAIROBI, 8 February, 1999 - As part of the seond phase of the joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Balkans Task Force (BTF), a group of international scientific experts will start work next weekend on detailed environmental clean-up feasibility studies at four sites in Serbia. The team, which arrives in Belgrade on 13 February, will be conducting an analysis of the specific activities and technical requirements at the four "hot spots" identified by the BTF in its report, "The Kosovo Conflict - Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements."

In its assessment report released last October, the BTF concluded that pollution detected at four environmental þhot spotsþ (Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Bor), is serious and poses a threat to human health. Projects to address priority needs for humanitarian assistance at the "hot spots" will be identified during February/March and next week's studies are required before the actual environmental clean-up can begin.

Under the leadership of the former Finnish Environment and Development Cooperation Minister, Pekka Haavisto, the Task Force continues to work from its offices in Geneva. Last month, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe asked the BTF to contribute expertise for environmental assessments in other countries of the Balkans region. These projects will be discussed in detail later this week at the Stability Pact's meeting, "Working Table on Economic Reconstruction, Development and Cooperation," to be held from 10 to 11 February in Skopje.

Clean-up in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Last year's BTF report recommended urgent remedial action at the heavily contaminated wastewater canal which flows into the Danube river at Pancevo; the removal of significant quantities of toxic waste at the Zastava car plant in Kragujevac; detailed studies on the possible contamination of drinking water supplies near the Novi Sad oil refinery; and the prevention of further releases of sulphur dioxide gas into the atmosphere at the Bor ore smelting complex.

"The main responsibility for the environmental clean-up effort rests with the Yugoslav authorities," said BTF Chairman, Pekka Haavisto. "However, it is very important that the United Nations act rapidly in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia where there is need for humanitarian assistance. In this regard, UNEP and the United Nations Development Programme, working together in close cooperation, have already taken steps to highlight the urgent environmental problems as part of the overall humanitarian assistance, " he said.

In November 1999, as part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2000, a US 17 million appeal for environmental priority emergency projects in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was launched.

The BTF was set-up by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, the UN Environment Programme and UN Centre for Human Settlements in May 1999, to assess the environmental and human settlement consequences of the Balkans conflict. The BTF report, "The Kosovo Conflict - Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements," is available on the Web at http://www.grid.unep.ch/btf

Note to Editors

In 1999, the BTF focused its work on five areas. To this end, four field missions were carried out between July to September:

Environmental consequences of the conflict on industrial sites

Environmental consequences of the conflict on the Danube river

Consequences of the conflict on biodiversity in protected areas

Consequences of the conflict for human settlements and the environment in Kosovo

Since it was established, the BTF has worked as an integral part of the UN system and in Kosovo continues to work within the framework of UNMIK. Sixty experts, drawn from six UN agencies, 19 countries and 26 scientific institutions and NGOs, were involved in the various BTF assessment missions. Funding for the BTF work (in the form of voluntary contributions) came from Austria,Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Additional in-kind support was provided by Russia and Slovakia, and NGOs including Greenpeace, WWF, IUCN, Green Cross and the WCMC.


Note to journalists. Pekka Haavisto will hold a press conference at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, at 15.00 on Tuesday 8 February. For more information contact Henrik Slotte in Geneva on tel: +41-22-917-8598 or Robert Bisset, BTF Press Officer, in Nairobi on tel: +254-2-623084, fax: +254-2-623692, email: robert.bisset@unep.org.

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



UNEP News Release 2000/9


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