Josselien Janssens on Mon, 24 May 1999 18:41:03 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Environmental impact of the war in Yugoslavia

Dear Nettimers, 

The environment in the Balkan region may seem to be of 'secondary'
importance in a time of so much immediate human tragedy. We should
however realise that the environmental damage caused by the Kosovo war
could continue to cause human suffering in the region far beyond the
immediate armed confict. This is of course not an exclusive 'feature' of
this particular war, but a consequence of every major modern armed

The following short report on the environmental impact of the NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia was presented to a meeting of Greenpeace staff in
Amsterdam last week. Presenters were the author of the report, Dr. Bora
Cvetkovic, a Serbian medic who came to The Netherlands in the early
nineties as a political refugee, and Prof. Karel van der Leeuw from the
University of Amsterdam. 

- This message, the report and the information contained in it is sent
to you under personal title and does not represent any official
Greenpeace policy. The report was presented to Greenpeace staff solely
for information and as an internal discussion focus, like it is now
presented to the Nettime list and our individual contacts. The
information and statements enclosed in this message and in the report
have not in any way been officially endorsed or verified by Greenpeace.
- It is at this point obviously not possible to scientifically vouch for
the correctness of all the information contained in this report. It is,
however, possible to make likely "guesstimates" on the longer term
environmental impact of the war on the basis of NATO data, available
information from personal contacts, and best existing knowledge of
environmental factors and human infrastructure in the region. 
- Any available information on the consequences of this conflict from
any of the warring parties is potentially subject to distorting
propaganda or censorship. 
- Illustrating the completely contradictory current reports on
environmental damages as a result of the Kosovo war: A UN conference
held May 12-16 concluded that "no significant water pollution or
environmental damages caused by the war in Yugoslavia/Kosovo could be
detected so far". 
This assessment was based on information provided by conference
participants and downstream countries. It was called for by Yugoslav
authorities who report grave environmental damage as a result of the
NATO bombings.
This conference was organized by the UN Development Program and was
supported by the International Commission for the Protection of the
Danube river. Participants came from all Danube countries, the UN
Environment Program, the World Bank, the World Wildlife Foundation and
the Danube Environmental Forum. The participants agreed that more
rigorous monitoring and assessments were urgently needed in the region
for precautionary purposes. 
- For further detail on the information sources mentioned at the end of
this report, please send an email to Dr. Bora Cvetcovic: 

Josselien Janssens

Text of the report follows: 



By Dr. Bora Cvetcovic
Amsterdam, 19 May 1999

Nato bombing in Yugoslavia started 24, 1999. Up to now, 9000 missiles
and bombs have been fired at various targets, an expenditure of more
than 12 million kilograms of explosives. Many of these guided devices
have been targeted at the Yugoslav infrastructure, the destruction of
which has caused serious environmental problems in the region. The main
causes of the pollution in the area are:

- The destruction of: 
	chemical and petrochemical plants
	fertilizer factories
	oil depots and refineris
	pharmaceutical plants

-Use of depleted uranium

-Burned aircraft fuel


In the city of Pancevo, 15km northeast of Belgrade, there are located
combined petrochemical and fertilizer factories and an oil refinery. A
VCM (vinyl chloride monomer) plant was targeted two times in april. 
Vinyl chloride is used principally for the production of polyvinyl
chloride, a synthetic resin. VCM is known to cause cancer and has a
damaging effect on liver and kidneys in humans. This factory produces
300 tons of VCM per day. NATO airforce hit production facilities and
storage depots of the VCM while the plant was in regular operation. This
resulted in a huge explosion. A toxic cloud of smoke and gas, hundreds
of feet in hight was produced containing phosgene, hydrochloride acid,
ethylene dichloride and VCM. 20 tons of luiquid chlorine was released
into the atmosphere. This threatened Pancevo urban area of 120,000
inhabitants and indirectly Belgrade with its population of 2 million.
After the bombardment the amount of the toxic gases in the air above
Pancevo were 1000 times above the permitted level, reported Violeta
Orlovic from the Institute for the Protection of Nature of Serbia. Many
people were affected by the gas. Several thousand reported
feeling nausea and vertigo. Residents were told to breathe through
scarves soaked in sodium bicarbonate. Plants of chemical process
industries of this type have never been military targets or subject of
On April 15 NATO airforce bombed a fertilizer company in Pancevo. The
ammonia division facility, the power supply division and the units were
The municipality of Baric was also hit. There is in Baric a large
complex for the production of chloride.
On the second day of bombing, a chemical factory in the Belgrade suburb
of Sremcica was also targeted and hit. 
Other facilites for the production of potentially hazardous material
that have been damaged are: the pharmaceutical factory "Galenika" in
Belgrade, a plastics factory in Pristina, a chemical industry "Milan
BLagojevic" in Lucani and a factory for the production of
prharmaceutical products "Zdravlje" in Leskovac.
In addition, several transformer stations were destroyed in NATO attacks
which resulted in the leakage of highly toxic pyralene.


NATO military jets repeatedly target dozens of the country's major oil
refineries. NATO reported the destruction of the 70% of the refineries
and 30% of the counttry's capacities. Such installations were hit in the
cities of Novi Sad, Pancevo, Belgrade, Nis, Pristina, Sombor, Smederevo
and elsewhere. Power-heating plants with their oil reservoirs were
destroyed in Novi Sad and Belgrade.


Serbia has one of the most extensive underground water systems in
Europe. The contamination of these vital water sources will be felt in
the whole surrounding area and all the way to the Black Sea.
Oil and petrol from the damaged refineries area has flowed into the
Danube, forming slicks 15km long and 400m wide. Workers at the Pancevo
petrochemical complex decided to release ethylene dichloride into the
Danube to avoid the risk of an explosion. The engineers of this plant
have recently reported that in total 1400 tons of this carcinogenic
matter, 800 tons of 33% hydrochloride acid, large deposits of mercury
and 3000 tons of lye flowed into the river. The pollution is expected to
go downstream to Romania and Bulgaria.
Bombing at the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac has caused several tons
of pyralene to leak into the Velika Morava river, one of the major
tributaries of the Danube in Serbia. Even a small amount of this
carcenogenic material can poison one million litres of water.
About 10 million people in Balkan region depend on the Danube for
drinking water.


At a US Defence Department briefing held on May 7, 1999, Pentagon has
confirmed the use of depleted uranium (DU) in the conflict with
Yugoslavia. This is the third time in history that this dangerous metal
is being used in weapons.
Bullets being fired by A-10 anti-tank aircraft and probably all Tomahawk
Cruise missiles in the campaign Allied Force contain DU. The Coghill
Research Laboratories from UK cite eminent radiation physicists
who calculate that unprecedented use of DU inserts in Cruise missiles in
Yugoslavia will have the same effect as Chernobil and the Three Mile
Island disaster. DU is a waste product of the enrichment of uranium for
military and civilian use. It is 40% less radioactive than natural
uranium. The half life of this sort of uranium is 10 billion years. It
pollutes the environment for a very long period of time. That's why it
has as nickname "metal of dishonor". DU is used in shells because of
it's low price and because of it's extreme density (1,7 times as dense
as lead) which penetrates targets better.
The U.S. stockpile exceeds a billion pounds of this heavy metal. DU was
used, for military purposes, for the first time during the Gulf War in
the 1991.
The estimated amount of DU left around the Gulf War zone is between 350
and 750 tons.
As the shell hits its target, it burns and releases uranium oxide. This
aerosol contains particles of DU 0.5-5 microns in size which, once they
are in the air, can be carried by the wind and inhaled or ingested. DU
is both radioactive and toxic. Once in the lungs, one such particle is
equivalent to having one chest X-ray per hour for life. Because it is
impossible to remove, the victim is gradually irradiated. There
extensive reports from southern Iraq about a large increase of
stillbirths, birth defects, leukemia and other cancers in children born
since 1991. Some scientific researches indicates that DU could be
responsible for the Gulf War syndrome from which thousands of US
veterans suffer.


More than 1,100 military aircraft are being used in the bombing of
Yugoslavia. NATO claims it has carried out around 21,000 sorties so far.
Jet fuel exhaust releases toxic and cancerous gases into the atmosphere
such as: ammonium-perchlorat, polyvinyl-chloride, lead-stearate,
polybutadie, polyethan etc. Ivan Grozdanov, a chemist at the Centre for
Radioisotopes in Skopje said that the burning aircraft fuel is a primary
source of stratospheric nitrogen oxides which are severely damaging the
ozone layer. In combination with other sources of pollution, this has
caused acid rains which have already occured in northern Serbia and that
will affect agriculture and forest regions.


"By burning down enormous quantities of naphtha and its derivatives more
than a hundred highly toxic chemical compounds that pollute water, air
and soil are released endangering the entire Balkan ecosystem", said New
Green Party scientist Luka Radoja. The chief inspector of the Macedonian
Ministry of environment, Miroslav Baburski, claims that furans and
dioxins released by bomb explosions are being carried over very long
distances. The pollution is entering Macedonia by air and by the river
Lepenec which crosses the border between Yugoslavia and Macedonia. The
toxic products in the air which are spreading in the Europe, have
already reached Poland. Depending on a weather conditions they could
also affect Hungary, Greece and Italy.


The NATO campaign in Yugoslavia is exposing hundreds of thousands of
citizens to various sorts of poisoning. This will have serious short,
medium and long term consequences to the health of the inhabitants and
the environment of the southeast Europe. Long lasting toxic, mutagenous
and cancerous effects of the released chemicals will increase malign,
lung, skin and other diseases. 
Over 20 international treaties and conventions are being violated by
this agression. Pollution on such scale deserves greater attention of
the world's public and direct actions of all those who are commited to
protecting the natural environment.


Coghil Research Laboratories 
Lower Race, Pontypool, Gwent NP4 5UH, UK
Tel. + 44 1495 763389
Fax.+ 44 1495 769882
Depleted uranium article:

Violeta Orlovic
Head of the Department for Education and Communication
Institute for the Protection of Nature of Serbia
III bulevar 106 
11070 Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Tel./fax: + 381 11 142 281
E-mail: nature@net.yu
Website: www
BBC Internet news May 7, 1999
International Action Center 
39 West 14th Street, #206,
New York, NY 10011 U.S.A.
Tel. + 1 212 633 6646
Fax.+ 1 212 633 2889
Yugoslav Academic Community
The Regional Enviromental Center
(for Central and Eastern Europe)
The Managing Board of HIP - Azotara
(Fertilizer company from Pancevo, FR Yugoslavia)
Statement for the press April 15, 1999
Dr Gabor Mesaros 
Institute for Biological Research
Department of Evolutionary Biology
29. novembra 142
11 000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Statement for the press 
Dejan Dimic production engineer
VCM-DP HIP Petrohemija-Pancevo, Yugoslavia
(Vinyl Monomer Plant)

"Ecological Catastrophe Hits Yugoslavia"

"Depleted Uranium"
Military Toxics Project

News, May 19, 1999
Glas Javnosti
(Yugoslav daily)
Ass.Prof. Dr. Radoje Lausevic
Serbian Ecological Society
Univ.Belgrade, Fac. Biology
Takovska 43
11000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Tel. + 381 11 767 988
Fax.+ 381 11 769 903
E-mail: rlausevic@EUnet.yu

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