Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Somalia: Pirates – and Dumping

This is a report from BBC News. I published a piece previously on Somalia on March 11, and blogger Shafi said the following:

“When wealthier nations align their fleet of vessels at Somali coast to fish illegally (estimated at around $6 million as the article says) and dump toxic waste in some parts of the water, aren’t they doing a greater evil and a major harm to the shell-shattared country and her people than the pirates for whom piracy is itself a survival method?”

The statement caught me totally by surprise. I went looking to see if it was true, and it was.

Shafi has a fascinating blog, and if you have some time, go take a look. Meanwhile, I am happy to see glimpses of a fuller picture coming forth in the news:

somalia

Ex-Somali Army Colonel Mohamed Nureh Abdulle lives in Harardhere – the town closest to where the hijacked Saudi oil tanker, Sirius Star is moored. He tells the BBC, via phone from his home, that the town’s residents are more concerned about the apparent dumping of toxic waste than piracy.

The Harardhere-born military man advises the town’s elders on security matters and is in his fifties.
Somalia has been wracked by conflict since 1991 – when its last national government was forced from power.

The super-tanker is close to our coast. It is a very, very long ship. Some time ago we had our own problems of piracy in our town but that has not happened lately.

The people who have been hijacking these ships in our seas are not from our region. We do not know any of the guys on the super-tanker and they haven’t made any contact with us.

You know, our problem is not piracy. It is illegal dumping.

These problems have been going for sometime and the world knows about it. The Americans have been here in the region for a long time now – they know about the pollution.

Instead, no, the world is only talking about the pirates and the money involved.

Mysterious illnesses
Meanwhile, there has been something else going on and it has been going on for years. There are many dumpings made in our sea, so much rubbish.

It is dumped in our seas and it washes up on our coastline and spreads into our area.

A few nights ago, some tanks came out from the high sea and they cracked it seems and now they are leaking into the water and into the air.

The first people fell ill yesterday afternoon. People are reporting mysterious illnesses; they are talking about it as though it were chicken pox – but it is not exactly like that either. Their skin is bad. They are sneezing, coughing and vomiting.

This is the first time it has been like this; that people have such very, very bad sickness.

The people who have these symptoms are the ones who wake early, before it is light, and herd their livestock to the shore to graze. The animals are sick from drinking the water and the people who washed in the water are now suffering.

TimesOnline ran an article on Somalia after the tsunami, and the contaminants that had been washed ashore:

“The current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region,” the report says. Toxic waste was first dumped in Somalia in the late 1980s, but accelerated sharply during the civil war which followed the 1991 overthrow of the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Local warlords, many of them former ministers in Siad Barre’s last government, received large payments from Swiss and Italian firms for access to their respective fiefdoms.

Most of the waste was simply dumped on remote beaches in containers and leaking disposable barrels.

Somali sources close to the trade say that the dumped materials included radioactive uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury and industrial, hospital, chemical and various other toxic wastes. In 1992, Unep said that European firms were involved in the trade, but because of the high level of insecurity in the country there were never any accurate assessments of the extent of the problem.

In 1997 and 1998, the Italian newspaper Famiglia Cristiana, which jointly investigated the allegations with the Italian branch of Greenpeace, published a series of articles detailing the extent of illegal dumping by a Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso.

The news is so much more complicated than it appears. How do we stop all these wrongful, hurtful things? Do not we have a responsibility toward the poorest nations? If we – meaning the richest nations – don’t stop this dumping now, is there not every chance in the world that it will come back to haunt us?

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November 21, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues | | 10 Comments

No Home Activities for Welfare Societies

A sudden and unbelievable decision bans welfare activities in private homes. This could have far reaching effects – are not most welfare activities taking place in Kuwait privately organized and funded? I have been to so many private fund raisers for charities I support – bazaars, game nights, line dancing classes – almost all in private homes. I suspect this is legislation that means well, but discourages people from reaching out to meet needs not met by the city or state.

Welfare societies banned from organizing activities in private homes
Al Watan staff

KUWAIT: Welfare and charitable societies are facing a new challenge after the Municipality has decided to suspend any such activities from taking place in private homes.

The Municipality has sent 62 official letters to the Ministry of Water and Electricity demanding that power be cut off to certain buildings in Jabriya and Salmiya after these private residencies were found to have been involved in activities of welfare societies. Undersecretary at the Ministry of Water and Electricity Yusuf AlـHajiri confirmed in a statement to Al Watan that the ministry will disconnect the electricity from properties involved in violations of housing regulations.

Representatives from a number of welfare societies and charitable organizations expressed their bewilderment at this decision and said that all their activities are licensed and were often inaugurated under government sponsorship. They added that many people will suffer from what they described as a “hasty decision.”

The decision to ban activities in private homes came directly from the Municipality General Manager Ahmad AlـSubaih who on Tuesday gave formal instructions to suspend all such activities on grounds that they violate private home regulations.

Local Municipal Councils are now able to issue violations and communicate directly with the Ministry of Water and Electricity to disconnect the power of any property which is found to be violating the terms and condition of housing tenancy.

Welfare societies and charitable organizations have already sent an official letter to the Cabinet requesting that they be allowed to expand their charitable activities and receive donations in cash to facilitate their work.

Last updated on Friday 21/11/2008

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Charity, Community, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues | 5 Comments