100 Nations Striving to Agree on Pact to Curb Toxic Waste Exports

Times Staff Writer

An international conference on toxic waste grappled late Tuesday with the difficult issue of the export by developed countries of poisonous garbage to less-developed nations.

The meeting of more than 100 countries, arranged by the United Nations Environmental Program, had agreed on the provisions for a treaty after 18 months of negotiations.

A draft of that treaty was submitted to the countries here in Basel, selected as a meeting site by the United Nations partly because the Swiss are proud of this city’s cleanup of toxic problems caused by chemical plant emissions into the Rhine River. However, after committee members’ recommendations on the treaty were sent to the full meeting, objections were raised.

Sources here said that most complaints came from nations that had not participated in the year and a half of talks that attempted to narrow the toxic waste issues.


“We thought that everyone was roughly agreed on a treaty,” said one U.N. official here late Tuesday, “but then we found there were many other nations that suddenly sent delegates here who raised objections in the form of amendments to the treaty.”

Weight Against Industrial Nations Urged

These objections generally suggested that any convention should be heavily weighted against those nations that export toxic wastes--including the United States and most other industrialized nations.

Greenpeace, the environmental organization, has been urging African nations to support a ban on all exports of toxic--or almost any other--waste.


Late Tuesday, aides to Mostafa Tolba, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said they thought that many nations will vote today in favor of the idea of banning shipments of toxic waste.

However, they admitted that while some nations might agree to a treaty, most others would simply indicate their assent to the idea that poisonous-waste exports should be banned--but would not necessarily commit themselves to such laws.