Against waste

The Basel Convention on Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal came into being in May 1992. Initially, it had been ratified by just 20 countries. India ratified the convention the same year, but has yet to ratify the Basel Ban.

Movement of hazardous wastes had become common, but no joint action had been taken by countries of the North and the South to limit or prevent it. Industrialised countries began taking notice when they were themselves affected by such activity. In 1983, 41 drums of highly contaminated soil were recovered from a barn in San Quentin, France. The soil had originated from the Seveso chemical plant in Italy, and was contaminated with dioxins. Between August 1986 and November 1988, the ship Khian Sea literally traversed the seven seas, carrying incinerator ash from Philadelphia, USA. It had tried to dump its toxic load in several countries, changed its registered name twice, and finally emptied its holds somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Part of its toxic loads still lies on a Haitian beach, where it had begun unloading the ash.

Instances of dumping wastes in poor countries were commonplace. The worst sufferers were African countries. In 1987-88, an Italian company entered into an agreement with an impoverished farmer in the Nigerian coastal city of Koko. It offered him US $100 a month to use his land to