Monday, 29 October 2012

Koko Village, Nigeria

"Poverty is the reason people have been lured into accepting substances that otherwise they would not have."  This poverty is encouraging waste exports to Africa.  In some cases the fees for trade in the hazardous wastes "rivals the African nations' annual gross national product."  One exemplary case took place in Koko, Nigeria in 1987 between Italian and Nigerian businessmen.

Italy produces between "40 and 50 million tons of industrial wastes and 16 million tons of household wastes each year," most of which is believed to be exported to developing countries for disposal.  In 1987, Italian businessmen Gianfranco Raffaeli and Renato Pent, of the waste broker firms Ecomar and Jelly Wax respectively, signed an illegal agreement with Nigerian  businessman, Sunday Nana, to use his property for storage of 18,000 drums of hazardous waste for approximately $100 a month.

"They came on a Wednesday," said Sunday, "Many, many big lorries. They took all day unloading them. No-one told us what was in them. They gave the Chief a brown paper bag-I saw him smiling as the lorries drove away. This was five years ago. Then three months ago, one of the brightest boys in the village - Thomas Agonyo - started university in Lagos.He came home one weekend with a new Chemistry book, and spent all day looking at the drums and writing things down and talking to himself and shaking his head. We all thought he had gone mad. Then he called a meeting of the village and told us that the drums contained poisonous chemicals. He said they had come from Italy. But I don't know where that is. Is it in Europe?

Mr. Sunday Nana stopped, frowning, a troubled look on his face, "In the last five years, 13 people have died in this village, my own elder brother one of them. They have been in pain, terrible pain. We have never seen deaths like that before. Lots of our children are sick. We have asked the Government to take the drums away,
but they do nothing. We have written to Italy, but they do nothing. The Chief says we should move our houses to another place. But we have no money to buy land. We have no choice. We have to stay here. And they"---- pointing to the mountain of death in the clearing - "are our neighbours."

Ponnimanthuri Village, India

 Ponnimanthuri village in Kolkata was brought on the mational and international stage by Environment Protection Summit by the reactionary NGOs to protest against the inflow of chemicals that are used to process the leather int  the factory and it is mixed in the drinking water resources.

"I can remember the time." she said wistfully, "when all the fields around this village were green and the harvests good." Her outstretched arm described a complete circle as she stood in the morning sun. "Then they built those monsters, those….." Her voice spluttered in anger as she shook her fist at a collection of
ominous-looking black buildings on the horizon, covered in a low-lying shroud of thick smoke. "They said that factories need leather to make shoes, handbags and clothes. They said our menfolk would get jobs. They said we would all become rich."

They didn't tell you that to change animal skins into leather - which they call tanning - uses as many as 250 different chemicals, including heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic and chromium.

They didn't tell you that these chemicals are discharged into the environment from those chimney stacks and fall to earth for miles around, polluting the earth below. They didn't tell you that this would poison your fields, so that nothing will grow. "They didn't tell us that the chemicals would be dumped in open fields and intoour rivers," sighed Vijayasama. We had been thinking the same thoughts. "They didn't tell us that our women would have to walk ten kilometers every day. They didn't tell us that we would get ulcer and sores on our bodies. They didn't tell us…" Her voice trailed off. There is so much they didn't tell you, I thought.

Vorobyov Village, Ukarine (formerly USSR)

 The Chernobyl disaster is widely considered to have been the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011). An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe.Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident.

 The official Soviet casualty count of 31 deaths has been disputed, and long-term effects such as cancers and deformities are still being accounted for. One of the village suffered from chernobyl disaster is vorobyov village in Ukraine.

"It was a Saturday ," she went on, still wiping her hands on her apron. "It was a lovely warm day, and the children played outside all weekend. Even when the dust began to fall, they still played outside. They picked up handfuls of it and threw it at each other, laughing. It was Wednesday before the loudspeaker van came to the village, telling us to keep our children indoors and not to touch the radioactive dust. They also told us to wash down our houses and roads with water. A week later the children began to vomit. Their hair fell out. They couldn't eat. They grew so thin, and sores appeared all over their little bodies. Two weeks after that, all three died - all three on the same day." She broke down now and cried quietly, as she had done so many times before. "They're buried over there." She pointed to the church graveyard. "Lots of village children are. And adults."

It was a ghost town. No- one lived there any more. They had either died or been forcibly evacuated. The fields were barren. Nothing grew. Nothing ever would again. There was no bird-song. No rabbit peered at me. No cow endlessly chewed. No horse neighed.She said. "I wanted to see the graves and the house again, before I die."