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Somalia toxic waste dumping, Somalia


News of toxic waste dumping in Somali waters has circulated since the collapse of the Mohamed Siad Barre military regime in 1991, but because of the lack of a functioning central government and general lawless state of Somalia there has been little systematic investigation done on both the source of the toxic waste and its impact on communities living along Somalias 3,300km coastline. The issue received renewed attention in 2004, however, when a Tsunami surge washed up containers containing hazardous waste in Southern Somalia. According to a report from Common Community Care (2006), a local nongovernmental organization, radioactive materials and hydrogen peroxide toxic wastes were found in different locations in Southern and Central Somalia. Common Community Care (CCC) stated an unconfirmed number of fishermen had died from health conditions at locations where containers were found. In Barava district of Lower Shabelle region, local residents spoke of sudden death and skin rashes. Communities reported mass death of fish[1]. Investigations in the 1990s linked the dumping of toxic waste to European front companies associated with the Italian mafia, a claim that was again made in 2012 and which the European Union is reported to be investigating. A 2005 United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report says most of the waste has been dumped on seashores in containers and disposable leaking barrels. And former United Nations Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, told Aljazeera in 2008 that the world body had reliable information that European and Asian firms were continuously dumping hazardous waste off Somalia[2].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Somalia toxic waste dumping, Somalia
Location of conflict:Somalian coast
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Uranium
Chemical products
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

There are no figures for the estimated amount of waste dumped in Somalia. An Italian government investigation in the 1990s found that 35 million tonnes of waste had been exported to Somalia for $6.6 billion, but this figure would not include other countries whose waste ended up being illegally dumped in Somali waters. What is clear is that the cost of exporting waste is a far cheaper option for developed countries: a UNEP report states that it costs $2.50 per ton to dump toxic waste in Africa compared to $250 per ton to dump waste in Europe [3].

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1991
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Social Development
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from United States of America
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace, Daryeel Bulsho Guud (DBG), SomaCent Development Research Foundation

Conflict & Mobilization

Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Threats to use arms
A number of writers have linked the origins of the piracy phenomenon along the Somali coastline to efforts by communities to protect their livelihoods from toxic dumping and illegal fishing.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impactsReports of fish dying due to contamination.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Other Health impactsReports indicated birth deformities and cancerous growths in some coastal communities, and deaths by unknown causes.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There is nothing to indicate that the dumping of toxic waste has stopped. Even if it had, communities along Somalias coast will pay the health and environmental consequences in the years to come.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Hussein, Bashir Mohamed (2010). The evidence of toxic and radioactive waste dumping in Somalia and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights: a case study. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

[2] Nuurre, AbdiRasaq H. (2012). Toxic Mafia. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

[3] Greenpeace (2010). The toxic ships. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Hussein, Qalinle (2011). Somalia: Radioactive waste surfaces in the coastline. Available at: Accessed 9 January 2013.

Milton, Chris (2009). Somalia used as toxic dumping ground. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Mwangura, Andrew (2010). Somalia: Pirates or protectors? Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Najad Abdullahi (2008). Toxic waste behind Somali piracy. Available at: Accessed 10 January 2013.

Rettman, Andrew (2012). EU studying links between Italian mafia and Somalian pirates. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Guardo a Sud! blogspot, by Giovanni Tizian (in Italian)

Tra i cacciatori di pirati, in LEspresso, by Fabrizio Gatti (in Italian)

Caso Alpi, ecco i rifiuti proibiti, in lEspresso, by Riccardo Bocca (in Italian)

AFP (2010). Toxic waste: Somalia seeks help. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network



Democracy Now (2009). Somalia Piracy Began in Response to Illegal Fishing and Toxic Dumping by Western Ships off Somali Coast. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

Al Jazeera (2009). People and Power: The toxic truth. Available at: Accessed 7 January 2013.

SomaCent Development Research (2010). Evidence and pictures of toxic waste dumped in Somalia. Available at: Accessed 24 January 2013.

United Nations Webcast (2010). Fourteenth Session of the Human Rights Council (special session on the adverse effects of the toxic wastes and the enjoyment of the human rights). Available at: Accessed 24 January 2013.

Meta information

Contributor:Patrick Burnett
Last update18/08/2019