UN calls for urgent environmental action in Iraq

24 April 2003
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in a report released on 24 April called for urgent action in Iraq to restore the water supply and sanitation systems, and to clean up possible pollution 'hot spots' and waste sites, in order to reduce the risk of disease epidemics from accumulated municipal and medical wastes.

The report, based on an initial assessment of conditions in Iraq, also called for an investigation of sites struck by weapons containing depleted uranium. It recommends that guidelines be distributed immediately to military and civilian personnel, and to the general public, on how to minimise the risk of accidental exposure to depleted uranium.

'Many environmental problems in Iraq are so alarming that an immediate assessment and a clean-up plan are needed urgently,' said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. UNEP's report on the environmental situation in Iraq was initiated at a humanitarian meeting convened in Geneva in February 2003 by the government of Switzerland, which has also financed the report. UNEP's proposal for conducting a full-scale assessment in Iraq has been included within the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) flash appeal for the humanitarian requirements of the Iraq crisis, launched on 28 March.

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