koko_nigeria_case

koko_nigeria_case - Case 161 HAZARDOUS WASTE TRADE NORTH...

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Do Not Duplicate This is Copyrighted Material for Classroom Use. It is available only through the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. 202-965-5735 (tel) 202-965-5811 (fax) 1 INTRODUCTION In 1987 and 1988, the small port town of Koko, Nigeria, had a secret. A complex collection of peo- ple and events had allowed Italian hazardous waste to be surreptitiously dumped in Koko between the fall of 1987 and the spring of 1988. Exposing the scheme in March 1988, the Italian newspaper Il Mondo reported that hazardous waste originating in Italy may have been dumped illegally in Nigeria, 1 an activity environmental groups in Italy had helped to expose. 2 The information about the dump reached Nigeria when “some patriotic [Nigerian] students” 3 who were studying in Italy contacted the Nigerian embassy in Rome, which then sent two let- ters to the Nigerian External Affairs ministry. The Nigerian press stated that the eight students had gotten in touch with the media after the ministry had not replied to their letters. 4 The Guardian (Lagos), a prominent Nigerian newspaper, reported on June 5, 1988, that more than one thousand tons of Italian toxic waste, including carcinogenic poly- chlorobiphenyls (PCBs) had been dumped in Koko. 5 The discovery of the Koko dump site set off a furi- ous chain of events in Nigeria, including a Nigerian government-led investigation, threats of the death penalty, the seizure of Italian ships, and diplomatic accusations and maneuverings. The Koko incident was but one of many in a bur- geoning trade in hazardous waste. Between 1986 and 1988, over three million tons of wastes were shipped from industrialized to less developed nations. 6 The Economist reported in 1989 that six hundred thousand tons of toxic wastes were offi- cially exported from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries annually, with about half of this coming from West- ern Europe, and speculated that the true quantity was twice this amount. 7 A 1988 report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) surpasses The Economist’s speculation, esti- mating that 2.2 million tons of toxic garbage crossed borders annually. 8 In addition, applications to the USEPA for permits to export hazardous waste jumped from twelve in 1980 to 522 in the first six months of 1988. 9 The increase in toxic trade in the 1980s resulted from rising disposal costs in northern countries. Ear- lier scandals like Love Canal, New York, and Times Beach, Missouri, in the 1970s forced more stringent U.S. laws regarding waste disposal. Western Euro- pean countries were under similar pressures. A “net- work of toxic waste brokers” 10 sprang up to move wastes from the north to the south. Three methods of disposal became common: leaving “lost” cargo on a small dock in a southern country, to be discov- ered months later when ownership would be impos- sible to trace; finding a poor individual in a southern Case 161 HAZARDOUS WASTE TRADE, NORTH AND SOUTH: THE CASE OF ITALY AND KOKO, NIGERIA Jennifer Olsen and Thomas Princen University of Michigan Copyright 1994 by Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
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