UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON TOXIC WASTE CONCLUDES MISSION TO TANZANIA


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The Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Okechukwu Ibeanu, made the following statement at the end of his mission to the United Republic of Tanzania from 21-30 January 2008:

30 January 2008
Ladies and Gentleman,

Let me begin by thanking the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for extending an invitation to me in my capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. I have been granted access to various Government officials and Ministries. However, I must mention that the mission would have been enhanced with better scheduling and coordination between the various Government offices. Nonetheless, I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Ministry of Energy and Minerals for their contribution and efforts in organizing meetings despite these difficulties.

I would also like to thank the United Nations Country Team, in particular the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for their efforts in assisting me in the organization and providing the technical and local knowledge for the purpose of this mission.

I would like to thank the civil society, mining consulting companies and individuals, particularly the ordinary villagers whom I have met, that have provided invaluable information of the situation on the ground.

During my mission, I have had the privilege of visiting areas within and around Dar es Salaam including the Mtoni and Pugukinyamwezi dumpsites. I also visited the Lake Victoria Area including the cities and regions of Mwanza, Geita and Shinyanga. In Geita, I had the opportunity to visit the Geita Gold Mine and to visit Nyaragusu areas where small-scale and medium-scale gold mining is taking place. In Shinyanga, I was able to see areas where small-scale diamond mining is taking place. I was also was able to visit the Williamson Diamond Mine in Mwadui.

The objective of my mission to the United Republic of Tanzania was to enable me to gather first-hand information on the impact that mining activities are having on the environment and on human rights. In addition, I also wanted to study the movement and use of chemicals and the waste management system for both industrial and domestic waste in the country.

I have observed through my meetings with a variety of stakeholders that the public may not have received any or sufficient information on the different chemical substances and dangerous products that they are exposed to in their workplace or their communities. It should be mentioned that the Government does appear to take action and have the proper mechanisms in place to deal with issues of chemical management.

One concern that I have, however, is the large volume of unregulated small-scale mining that is taking place around the country. I am particularly concerned with the use of mercury by small-scale miners. I have witnessed first-hand small-scale miners using mercury without proper safety equipment. In some cases, the miners do not have adequate information about the impact mercury can have on their health and the dangers of the improper disposal of tailings and their effect on their livelihood and the environment. In a number of areas, land, water, plants and livestock may be at a high risk of contamination from mercury and other dangerous wastes. In other cases and through my meetings, I have been informed of small-scale miners who have some awareness of the dangers of using mercury and other chemicals during the extraction process. However, due to poverty, inadequate information and the lack of a suitable alternative, the miners continue to use mercury and other dangerous products without supervision, endangering both the environment and their health. I acknowledge and welcome the sensitization efforts of both the Government and civil society in this regard. However, it seems that information is not leading to commensurate change of behavior.

I am also particularly concerned with many of the operations of big scale mining companies that exist in the United Republic of Tanzania. From what I have observed, there seems to be limited government supervision of the operations of these big mining corporations. The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania should monitor more closely the operations of large-scale mining companies particularly with regard to occupational health and safety standards and relations between the mining corporations and the surrounding communities. I have been informed of tensions that have been arising in different parts of the country due to the discontent of local communities with large scale mining companies. This is something that needs to be addressed urgently.

I have observed that the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has a comprehensive and wide range of laws and subsidiary instruments that deal with the particular issue of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, in particular, the Mining Act of 1998, the Industrial and Consumer Chemical (Management & Control) Act of 2003, the National Environmental Management Act of 2004 and the Land Act of 1999 amongst others, which I greatly welcome. While I note that such legal developments are relatively recent, I commend the Government for that achievement. I look forward to monitoring the wider implementation of these laws and their ability to limit the adverse effects of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the environment and on the human rights of the people of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu (Nigeria) is the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. He was appointed in 2004 by the Commission on Human Rights (now replaced by the Human Rights Council) .For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, visit
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/environment/waste