Kosovo war impacts limited, says UNEP

Agency calls for urgent industrial clean-ups, evaluates status of biodiversity, human settlements

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has formally concluded that this spring's air war over Yugoslavia had only limited environmental impacts, contradicting fears of an "ecological catastrophe" voiced during the conflict (ENDS Daily 6 July). Published today, the final report of the agency's Balkans Task Force (BTF) confirms earlier findings of at least four environmental "hotspots" in the Serbian towns of Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Bor, all of which were bombed by Nato. The task force stresses that the pollution is "serious and poses a threat to human health" and calls for immediate clean-up action, "as part of humanitarian assistance to the region". Significantly, however, UNEP also says that "much of the pollution identified pre-dates the conflict," indicating that poor pollution control over decades could be as much to blame as bombs. In particular, the report concludes, "there is widespread evidence of long-term deficiencies in the treatment of hazardous waste". In addition to its study of industrial "hotspots," the BTF report assesses the war's impacts on the River Danube, on biodiversity and on human settlements. A fifth study of possible consequences of the use of depleted uranium munitions by Nato was hampered by a virtual absence of information on the actual use of this type of weapon during the conflict, the task force notes.

Follow Up:
UNEP BTF, tel: +41 79 206 3720. References: The Kosovo Conflict: {Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements}.

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