CASE NUMBER: 192 CASE MNEMONIC: BENIN CASE NAME: Benin Hazardous Waste A. IDENTIFICATION 1. THE ISSUE In the late 1980s, it was brought to the world's attention that many African countries were being used as dumping ground for toxic and hazardous wastes coming from industrialized nations. The organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines hazardous wastes as " wastes which, if improperly managed, could harm man and/or the environment because they are toxic, corrosive, explosive and combustible." By that definition, waste can be anything from contaminated oils, acids and solvents produced by chemical and pharmaceutical companies to the by-products of the fertilizer industry. The Republic of Benin has been the site of successful and attempted dumping of toxic wastes coming from industrialized countries. The dumping of hazardous wastes in Benin poses a serious threat to the population and the environment of the country, which are often unaware of the dangers and unable to deal with the consequences. But the Government, strapped by the dramatic economic conditions of the country, could not turn down the multi-million business. 2. DESCRIPTION Benin is a West African country located in the gulf of Benin. Its total area is 112,600 sq km and its population is about 5 million. In 1972, a group of young military officers took power by coup and declared marxism-leninism the country's new political ideology. This former French colony was then ruled for more than 18 years by an authoritarian military junta led by General Mathieu Kerekou. The Soviet Union was the major political ally the Kerekou regime, but France, the former colonial power, remained the country's first economical partner. In the late 1980s, the country experienced a severe balance of payments deficit, was unable to pay government workers salaries, and defaulted in the payment of its external debt. It was in that situation of crisis that the first reports of toxic wastes deals emerged in the international press. Between 1984 and 1986, "several tons" of radioactive waste were dumped by the Soviet Union in Benin according to a senior Benin government official living in forced exile in Paris. Africa Newsfile, a London-based biweekly bulletin, alleged in its July 18, 1988 issue that President Kerekou was aware of the secretive dumping deal. The former head of the Benin Air force was reportedly dismissed after attempting to stop the Soviets from depositing the waste under the tarmac of a military airfield they were building at Canna, 10 miles south of Abomey (third city of Benin and historic site). At least two Benin workers were said to have died mysteriously at Canna in 1984, resulting in a temporary halt of the airport project. More Soviet radioactive waste was also dumped in an unused stone extraction site at Dan, 15 miles north of Abomey. The area was then marked "military zone" and access was restricted. In 1988, the government of Benin negotiated a bilateral deal with the French government to import radioactive and industrial waste in return for $1.6 million downpayment and 30 years of economic assistance. Later, the French were forced to cancel the deal because of a massive media opposition in France. Seraphin Noukpo, the commandant of the Ganvie (Benin's only merchant-marine vessel) acknowledged that he transported a shipment of nuclear waste from Le Havre in France. The shipment is reportedly buried in Saklo also in the Abomey region. London-based Africa Analysis published a story on April 1, 1988 saying Abomey was deliberately chosen because it is the center of opposition to the marxist regime in power. Still in 1988, the Beninese government signed yet another contract with the Anglo-American company, Sesco-Gibraltar, that called for the country to stockpile as much as 50 million tons of toxic wastes over a ten years period. A British television (BBC) documentary reproduced an aerial photograph, taken by the Franco-Swedish satellite Spot-1, that revealed the existence of a one-kilometer square hole in the ground constructed to store the waste near the southern village of Agon. The government of Benin, desperate for hard currency, had decided to ignore the long term consequences of storing untreated hazardous waste to rip the profits from the lucrative business of wastes import. For the waste traders, the profits are even greater. The cost of dumping in Benin or elsewhere in Africa can be as little as one thousandth of that in the more ecologically conscious West, where the growth of the green movement has meant that waste can no longer be disposed of locally without being properly treated at great cost. Hazardous waste processing can cost as much as $ 3000 a ton in industrialized countries and as little as $ 5 a ton to be buried untreated in developing countries." It was so cheap, we even sold them the ship as scrap," said Pompeyo Realuyo, a New York attorney who arranged a secret waste export deal in the early 1980s. For the Benin government or any other to agree to accept waste, there is the promise of some respite from deprivation, dependence and debt. "Much of the trade in waste destined for cheap dumping sites in the Third world, mostly in africa, is conducted clandestinely. Toxic commodity brokers operate in the shadows from box numbers in Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Liechtenstein." They buy and sell the waste like any other commodity. However, as the original producer has no binding responsibility for its final destination, it is traded as a liability rather than an asset. The destinations of the ships are often obscured and the cargo misrepresented as building materials or fertilizer. Mr Michael Yokowittz of the OECD describes the trade as "let's get rich quick." He said: " It's easy, anyone could do it. You register a private company and buy the waste with no questions asked. Then you find the dump site, rent a ship, hire a crew and you can retire early." 3. RELATED CASES SOMALIA Case TURKEY Case JELLYWAX Case FLORIDO Case BENGALI Case Keyword Clusters (1): SIC = WASTE (2): Bio-geography = TROP (3): Environmental Problem = POLL 4. Draft Author: Senamede Beheton B. LEGAL Clusters 5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and INPROGress In the U.S., the Solid Waste Disposal Act lays out guidelines and procedures for the disposal of hazardous waste. Under an amendment to the act, a U.S.-based company can engage in negotiations with a foreign company or government on waste disposal, but must notify the EPA before actually shipping cargoes outside this country. The foreign government involved then notifies the EPA of its decision to accept or reject the shipment. A total of 105 countries including Benin, concluded a treaty controlling toxic waste exports in Basel, Switzerland on March 22, 1989. The agreement, represents a compromise between major industrial nations that sought to maintain flexibility for safe waste exports and developing countries that demand an outright ban on cross-border transfers putting their populations at risk. The key point of the accord is a requirement for the government of any exporting country to obtain a prior written permit from the government where the potentially dangerous residue is to be shipped. Under the same agreement, the exporting country have the responsibility to recover dangerous waste rejected elsewhere. However, environmental groups argue that to regulate the trade is to legitimize it and make it more respectable. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) also responded to the dumping by voting a resolution that makes it virtually illegal for any member country to accept waste. Since May 6, 1994, the countries not members of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) have the choice of inspecting waste originating from the E.U and destined for recycling (known as "green list" under EU regulation). The new democratic government of Benin was among those who indicated to the Commission that it did not want to receive transfers of some or any "green list" wastes. 6. Forum and Scope: BASEL AND MULTIlateral Many deliberative bodies are legal venues for the present case and many others. The EPA, OAU, OECD are some of those venues. 7. Decision Breadth Technically, these decisions should put illegal waste dealers out of business. Developing Countries lose the opportunity to make quick money but safeguard their environment. Industrialized countries are now obliged to follow proper procedures for waste disposal. 8. Legal Standing: LAW C. GEOGRAPHIC Cluster 9. Geographic Locations a. Geographic Domain: AFRICA b. Geographic Site: West Africa [WAFR] c. Geographic Impact: BENIN 10. Sub-National Factors: NO 11. Type of Habitat: TROPical D. TRADE Cluster 12. Type of Measure: Import Ban [IMBAN] 13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect 14. The Relation of Measure to Impact a. Directly Related: YES RADIOactive b. Indirectly Related: YES AGRICulture c. Not related: NO c. Process Related: YES RADIOactive 15. Trade Product Identification: WASTE 16. ECONOMIC Data The waste industry is a multi-billion industry. In Europe, waste disposal can cost as much as $ 3000 a ton; in Africa as little as $2.5. There is not enough economic data available simply because of the secretive nature of waste deals. 17. Impact of Trade Restriction: BAN 18. Industrial Sector: WASTE Disposal 19. Exporters and Importers: FRANCE and BENIN E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters 20. Environmental Problem Type: POLL 21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species: N/A 22. Impact and Effect: HIGH and REGULatory Hazardous waste is highly dangerous for both man and nature. Its effect can last for very long periods of time. Trade regulation helps to preserve the welfare of people and the environment. There are numerous cases of untreated waste sipping into the water table and contaminating people. 23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 1,000s of years 24. Substitutes: Biodegradable [BIODG] F. OTHER Factors 25. Culture: NO 26. Trans-boundary: YES The fact that Benin accepted waste on its soil strained relations with big giant neighbor NIGERIA. 27. Human Rights: YES Dumping in center of opposition to the regime. Several top officials dismissed or forced into exile for speaking out. 28. Relevant Literature Africa News, "Environment: The west's wastebasket", June 13, 1988. Brooke James, "African countries barring Foreign Toxic Waste", The New York Times, September 25, 1988. Cody Edward, " 105 Nations Back Treaty on Toxic-waste Shipping; Pact Seeks to Shield Third World States", The Washington Post, March 23, 1989. Financial Times, "Toxic waste; Trade-offs in Poison and Poverty", August 31, 1988. Michaud Paul, " Benin: pass the ammunition." The New Republic, March 13, 1989. Porterfield Andrew, " Developing states become developing dump for toxics", WorldPaper, December, 1988. Rwegayura Anaclet, " Africa: New Dumping Ground for Toxic Wastes", Inter Press Service, July 20, 1988.