BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Science/Nature  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 15:12 GMT
UN war clean-up lacks UK cash
Storage sphere at Pancevo   Alex Kirby
Pancevo's petrochemical plant, one of the hotspots

The UK is failing to fund a United Nations scheme to put right environmental damage in Yugoslavia caused by the Nato bombardment of 1999.

It says it is channelling support for the clean-up through a separate European Union (EU) scheme.

But all EU member states are obliged to support that project, the EU Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation.

At least it's easier to live that way than to be afraid all your life

Jelena Beronja, on her fears of depleted uranium
Funding for the UN's work, which many Nato members are supporting, is voluntary.

The disclosure that the UK is not backing the UN's work was obtained by the BBC Radio 4 programme Costing the Earth.

It reported on the way in which countries try to restore their damaged environments after a conflict, and focussed on Yugoslavia, which was attacked by Nato four years ago.

Modest means

After years of conflict in the Balkans the UN Environment Programme set up a dedicated division, the Post-Conflict Assessment Unit (PCAU), to help countries emerging from war.

In Yugoslavia it identified four hotspots that had been bombed and needed urgent action.

Pancevo canal   Alex Kirby
Pancevo's filthy canal
They were an oil refinery at Novi Sad; a mining centre at Bor; a car plant in Kragujevac; and a petrochemical plant at Pancevo, near Belgrade.

The unit's budget for its entire work programme is $11.2m. Pasi Rinne, from Finland, is the PCAU's senior policy advisor.

He told Costing the Earth: "With the $11.2m we have been able to reduce environmental risks at all of these locations.

"We've been able to show that the environment is an important thing, and there are people and governments who care for environmental issues.

"In all of these locations the co-operation has been very constructive. The national and local authorities are very involved."

Asked which countries were supporting the unit, Mr Rinne said: "Many of the Nato countries have given funds, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany.

"The UK and the US have not yet supported the programme."

No choice

The UK's Department for International Development (DfID) told Costing the Earth it was "supporting the remediation of hotspot areas" through its contribution to the EU programme.

What the Department did not say was that all EU member states are required automatically to support this programme.

Nor did it explain why the UK, unlike many of its Nato allies, had chosen not to fund the PCAU's work.

Jelena Beronja   Alex Kirby
Jelena Beronja is afraid
Apart from the four hotspots, Mr Rinne is also concerned at the possible risk to local people from the remains of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition used by the Nato forces.

DU is 1.7 times denser than lead, and is used in bombs and artillery rounds to punch a hole through armoured vehicles.

Although it is appreciably less radioactive than ordinary uranium, it can still be a problem. A DU round turns into a spray of molten dust on impact, and the dust can cause cancer if it enters the body.

Lingering fears

Jelena Beronja, an environmental campaigner, told Costing the Earth the prospect frightened her.

She said: "I've talked to people from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences from Belgrade who've been to these places.

"Maybe it's my own decision that I want to believe what people in the Institute said, that there are only four affected spots in Serbia and one in Montenegro.

"At least it's easier to live that way than to be afraid all your life."

Pasi Rinne said the DU contamination the PCAU had found was not very high-level, but he feared it posed unnecessary additional risks to local people, and could harm them in the long term.

Costing the Earth is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 2100 GMT on 23 January 2003.

See also:

18 May 99 | Science/Nature
19 Apr 99 | Science/Nature
20 Apr 99 | Monitoring
12 Apr 99 | Europe
09 Apr 99 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Science/Nature stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes