- UNITED NATIONS (UPI)
- The head of the Balkans Task Force on the environment says "preliminary
findings show there are serious environmental consequences and probably
serious health consequences" from conflicts in southeastern Europe.
- Pekka Haavisto, the former Finnish environment minister,
said today after a nine-day inspection trip to damaged industrial sites
the panel found "lots of mercury, several hazardous or toxic substances"
and added that groundwater might be contaminated at several sites.
- "There are certain environmental impacts and risks
for health if immediate action is not taken," said Haavisto, chairman
of the joint U. N. Environment program/U.N. Center for Human Settlements
(Habitat) Balkans Task Force. But, he said, "Everybody is waiting
for reports and scientific results before taking any action," adding,
"It's safe to wait a couple of months."
- He told reporters where there is reconstruction, often
"workers are not always protected from mercury and asbestos - people
are not aware."
- One problem that must be overcome in the Balkans is determining
when the environment was impacted, to distinguish between previous conditions
and what was caused by the recent crisis."
- Haavisto said upon arriving at one site he was greeted
with: "We've been waiting 10 years for independent environmental inspectors."
- He estimated it would take "several years"
to clean up the Balkans, "if done according to the best criteria."
- Asked about depleted uranium from spent conventional
arms, the environmentalist said, "We haven't found any higher readings
at the moment." However, he said information about such a potential
problem was being sought from the World Health Organization and the International
Atomic Energy Agency.
- Copyright 1999 by United Press International All rights