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The BBC's Nick Thorpe
"A huge sum is needed"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Romania 'needs billions' to fight pollution
map of route
The spills have originated from northern Romania
Romania needs more than $20bn to resolve environmental safety issues, according to estimates by a European Union official.

Fokion Fotiadis, the head of the EU office in Bucharest, was speaking in the wake of a series of accidents at mines in northern Romania which have had a devastating impact on rivers in the region.

Mr Fotiadis told reporters that the money would be needed to prevent future accidents at mines and other industrial facilities in the country.

It is not clear where such money might come from, although the World Bank has already pledged a much smaller amount.

Enormous damage

There have been three serious pollution incidents in the same mining area of northern Romania so far this year.

The worst, a spill of cyanide from a gold mine at the end of January, caused enormous damage to 800km of rivers, especially the Tisza and Danube in neighbouring Hungary and Yugoslavia.

dead fish and man
The pollution has caused enormous damage to the rivers' wildlife

Heavy metal poisoning also from Romania continues to affect the same rivers, and the Hungarian Government has been putting pressure on Romania to act swiftly.

International task force

Tom Garvey, chairman of the international task force set up by the European Union to tackle the problem, is currently on a fact-finding mission in the region.

"Our mandate is to investigate the causes of the accidents and provide an agreed assessment of the damage they caused," he said.

Mr Garvey heads a six-member team including members from the Romanian and Hungarian governments, the EU, and the United Nations.

On Tuesday he visited the site of the cyanide accident.

"We will propose measures to be taken nationally, internationally and at EU level to minimise the risk of such accidents in the future," he said.

A report by the United Nations environment programme into the accident, is due to be published in about 10 days' time.

Recommendations from that report will be taken up by the international working group.

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10 Feb 00 | Europe
Cyanide spill wreaks havoc
11 Feb 00 | Media reports
Hungary's shock at cyanide disaster
14 Feb 00 | Europe
Death of a river
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