WWF renews call for EU action against toxic waste
BRUSSELS - Environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature urged the European Commission to take steps to prevent disasters caused by toxic waste.
Reacting to a recent cyanide spill blamed for the widespread destruction of fish and wildlife in eastern Europe, the organisation warned about other potential catastrophies and urged the Commission to adopt recommendations made a year ago.
"WWF considers metal mining activities to be a major threat to freshwater ecosystems in Europe," it said in a statement.
It said that over 300 km (200 miles) of rivers had been affected by a spill from the Aurul gold smelter in Baia Mare, northwest Romania, leaving them ecologically dead and causing Hungarys worst ecological disaster.
In a report a year ago the group said there was evidence of significant pollution problems caused by leaks from toxic waste stores associated with metal mining in several European Union countries and criticised the absence of regulation.
"The tragic cyanide spill into the Tisza river was a disaster waiting to happen. The only question is where will the next one strike?" said Jane Madgwick, head of WWFs European freshwater programme.
WWF said the EU Commission should draw up an inventory of toxic waste stores in Europe, develop safer ways of mine waste disposal and revise European environmental laws.
Countries seeking membership of the 15-nation bloc, which include Romania and Hungary, ought also to be associated to the EU action, WWF said.
The Commission, which has responsibility for initiating new laws in the 15-nation bloc, this week adopted a discussion paper proposing that polluting companies pay for damage caused to nature and not just persons and goods.
The paper, which is expected to be followed by draft legislation, proposes that polluters be held liable, for example, for the disappearance of species of fish or birds from their natural habitats. Current national laws only force them to clean up contaminated sites.
Hungarian authorities have hauled tonnes of dead fish from the Tisza which runs through central Hungary and is a water source for many towns and villages. The two countries are cooperating in seeking restitution for the destruction caused by the spill at the smelter half owned by Australias Esmeralda Ltd.
The EUs environmental liability paper follows several ecological catastrophies in recent years including the recent oil spill at Frances western coastline caused by the break up the Erika tanker and the incident, two years ago, near the Donana nature reserve in the South of Spain.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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