Last update:
2020-05-27

Trafigura's toxic waste scandal and the closure of Akouédo dump, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

The 2019 closure of Abidjan's notorious Akouédo dump displaced numerous waste pickers. The site became internationally known in 2006 when the company Trafigura illegally dumped a shipload of toxic waste and harmed the health of over 100,000 people.


Description:

The dumpsite of Akouédo was established in 1965 in the same-named village and has since then received most of Abidjan’s waste, including industrial waste and toxic waste. The uncontrolled dumping site provided a means of survival for hundreds of people from marginalized backgrounds who, at every time of the day, came to collect recyclable waste – even though access to the site was officially prohibited. After the collection, they would typically sort the materials and sell them to traders. [1][2][3][4] In 2006, the illegal dumping of toxic waste by the company Trafigura caused wide public outrage as an environmental catastrophe and violation of human rights and the Basel Convention.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Trafigura's toxic waste scandal and the closure of Akouédo dump, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
Country:Ivory Coast
State or province:Abidjan District
Location of conflict:Akouédo - Abidjan
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
E-waste and other waste import zones
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Waste from caustic washing of coker naphta (unrefined petroleum),
Sodium Hydroxide, Mercaptides, Sulphides, Phenolates, Organochlorines and Organic Chemicals such as Benzene, Xylenes and Toluen.
Industrial waste
Chemical products
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Akouédo dumpsite was established in 1965 in the same named village in the east of Abidjan. It encompasses an area of 150 hectares, of which 83 hectares are covered with waste. The company in charge of the landfill was PISA IMPEX.

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Project area:150
Level of Investment:65,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:100,000
Start of the conflict:20/08/2006
Company names or state enterprises:Trafigura (trading and logistics) from Netherlands
West African International Business Services (WAIBS) from Ivory Coast
Puma Energy - Trafigura subsidiary in Ivory Coast (The Netherlands)
Compagnie Tommy - newly licensed waste processing/disposal company
Pisa Impex from Ivory Coast - private company managing Akouedo dumpsite
Tredi from France - responsible for clean-up operations
Biogenie from Canada - responsible for clean-up operations
PMI trading - commercial arm of Mexicos state owned company PEMEX
Probo Koala Shipping Inc from Marshall Islands - Probo Koala ship, ship that was the site of refining) renamed Gulf Jash and later, Hua Feng
Prime Marine Management from Greece
Relevant government actors:Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Environment, Centre Ivoirien Anti Pollution, Ivorian Ministry of Environment,
National Waste Management Agency (Anaged)
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Maritime Organization (IMO)
UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste and Human Rights
UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT )
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)
Red Cross
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CIAPOL (Ivorian environmental agency), Union: Collectif des Travailleurs de Vridi, Basel Action Network, http://www.ban.org/, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/, Greenpeace Netherlands, http://www.greenpeace.nl/, Leigh Day and Co, http://www.leighday.co.uk/home BBC, Guardian
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Fires, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Genetic contamination, Global warming, Noise pollution, Oil spills, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsNeurological, cutaneous, respiratory, digestive, ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) and opthalmological impacts, as well as in some cases, gynecological and cardiovascular problems. At high concentrations of waste, the effects can be very serious and include convulsions, coma and eventually, death.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Migration/displacement
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Trafigura should publicly disclose information about the waste, including scientific studies and information on its impacts
-AU member states should ratify the Basel and Bamako conventions and adopt their requirements into national legislation
-EU and member states should adopt a normative framework requiring companies to respect human rights and the environment and carry out adequate human rights due diligence throughout their operations. They should also make it mandatory for companies to disclosure their lobbying activities and positions in relation to national or international regulatory frameworks.
-The UK should begin a criminal prosecution against Trafigura
-Freedom from toxic waste dumping should be made a human right
-The government of Ivory Coast should publically report on how the compensation money received from Trafigura has been used to date; establish a process to ensure all victims are compensated; establish a medical study to evaluate the health of the affected population over time, in order to identify any long-term impacts; pursue investigations and prosecutions
against all involved in the misappropriation of compensation funds; publically report on the changes made in law, regulation and practice in Ivory Coast to prevent the illicit import and/or disposal of hazardous waste; Amend the criminal code of Ivory Coast to allow for companies to be held legally accountable for criminal conduct; assess the legality of the Protocol accord, including the immunity from prosecution given to Trafigura.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Years after the dumping of the waste, despite the huge numbers of people affected, international coverage of the issue and several legal proceedings, little has been done to strengthen national and international regulations to prevent similar incidents of dumping in the future. Trafigura still evades responsibility for the event. There are reports that the authorities in Ivory Coast failed to properly distribute compensation to victims. The Trafigura incident also led to super injunctions in the UK preventing the media from reporting the issue thoroughly and having access to information. Trafigura has been convicted of illegally exporting waste in the Netherlands, but the Dutch courts decided that much of the substance of the allegations was beyond their jurisdiction. Trafigura was granted immunity from prosecution in Cote d Ivoire, as part of a local settlement. International organizations have been calling for Trafigura to face a criminal trial in the UK.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[16] Ludington, G. (2014): City Assessment: Waste Management in Abidjan. Gedavor, December 2014.

[13] African Clean Cities (2019): Côte d’Ivoire. Abidjan.

[15] Ossey, D. (2017): La décharge d'Akouedo fermera-t-elle d'ici fin décembre? DW, 28.12.2017.
[click to view]

[7] Yao-Kouassi, Q., Gohourou, F. (2017): Akouédo, The Landfill Overexploited and Dangerous of Abidjan District (Ivory Coast). International Journal of Science and Research, IJSR, 2017, 6 (9), pp. 246-249.

[14] Dro, R. (2015): "Moi, Achille, fouilleur à la décharge d’Akouédo". France 24, 20.02.2015.
[click to view]

[6] Greenpeace Netherlands & Amnesty International, 2012, 'Une Vérité Toxique'. Download link:
[click to view]

[11] RFI (2008): Les victimes du « Probo Koala » protestent. 28.01.2008.
[click to view]

[12] Reuters (2012): UPDATE 1-Trafigura reaches toxic waste settlement with Dutch. 16.11.2012.
[click to view]

[8] BBC Newsnight (2009): Trafigura knew of waste dangers. 16.09.2009.
[click to view]

[4] Carlier, R. (2016): Côte d’Ivoire: les victimes oubliées des déchets toxiques du «Probo-Koala». Le monde, 20.08.2016.
[click to view]

[10] Harvey, F. (2012): Trafigura lessons have not been learned, report warns. Guardian, 25.09.2012.
[click to view]

[9] Business and Human Rights (2016): Trafigura lawsuits (re Côte d’Ivoire).
[click to view]

[1] Dro, R. 2015): La décharge d'Akouédo ou comment faire des affaires en enfer! Droville.com, 19.02.2015.
[click to view]

[19] Takouleu, J. (2019): Ivory Coast. Akouédo landfill near Abidjan becomes urban park. Afrik21, 05.07.2019.
[click to view]

[18] Kipré Leroy, J. (2015): Décharge d’Akouedo - Les enfants poubelles: Ces oubliés du système. 100Pour100culture, 01.08.2015.
[click to view]

[5] Amnesty International (2016): Trafigura, un voyage toxique.
[click to view]

[17] PressAfrik.com (2015): La collecte des objets plastiques à la décharge d'Akouédo, au Nord-est d'Abidjan, "un business" pour des fouilleurs. 01.03.2015.
[click to view]

[20] Rico, Y. (2018): Ivory Coast: Work Starts on Waste Management Centre in Abidjan. Afrik21, 20.04.2018.
[click to view]

[3] Ouedraogo, N. (2011): Erreur humaine. Voz Galerie.
[click to view]

[2] Journal d’Abidjan (2017): Décharge d’Akouédo: Une équation qui cherche solution. 03.08.2017.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

BBC Services 'Dirty tricks and toxic waste in Ivory Coast'

Al Jazeera, 'Toxic waste dump in Ivory Coast- Transfigura faces probe'
[click to view]

Droit Libre TV, 'Dechets toxiques Abidjan: les victimes attendent toujours!'
[click to view]

Other comments:There is a lot of information for this particular case, not all of which could be mentioned above. The report by Greenpeace/Amnesty is the most detailed account, spanning a 3 year period.

Certain coverage of the case, such as the mentioned 'Dirty tricks and toxic waste in Ivory Coast' are no longer available as, according to Wikileaks, BBC decided to delete it facing legal battles.
Meta information
Contributor:Zahra Moloo, Max Stoisser
Last update27/05/2020
Comments
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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