Toxic Remnants of War
Under Protocol V of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons, states have accepted a responsibility to address the longer term risks arising from the use of explosive weapons. These risks relate to the threat from unexploded ordnance and abandoned explosive ordnance that can litter post conflict environments. Collectively these are termed “explosive remnants of war”.
Building on this acceptance of responsibility, consideration should be given to how the same principle should apply to toxic remnants of conflict that can pose a threat to the health of populations living in the post conflict environment.
Related to this, the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) provide guidelines for the disposal of toxic and hazardous materials during demining operations. Whilst the toxic contamination resulting from conflict will likely extend significantly beyond the issues itemised here, it would be useful to begin the process of compiling precedents and technical information towards the establishment of this agenda:
IMAS 10.70, First Edition, (01 October 2007)
6.5. Disposal of toxic and hazardous waste
Toxic and hazardous waste are not normally found in landmines. However, if explosives contents are open to the environment, the explosives or their residues can become soil and water contaminates that may have a substantial effect upon the environment. In addition, asbestos chemicals and liquid propellants can be found in missiles and fuzing systems. Also, chemical weapons, including chlorine and mustard gas munitions, and depleted uranium projectiles may be encountered. The latter should be handled in accordance with the TNMA 09.30 02.
Other examples of toxic and hazardous waste include:
a) Flammable substances, oily wastes, lubricants, fuel filters (FOL)
c) Medical waste, old medicine, and other chemicals
Any toxic or hazardous waste products of demining operations shall be disposed off in accordance with the requirements of the NMAA.
Toxic waste products of demining operations shall not be buried at the work site but collected and removed to an approved disposal area.
Note: Waste batteries may be stored together and labeled in a common container as long as the container is structurally sound, prevents leaking and compatible with the batteries. Waste batteries may be accumulated for up to one year before shipping off site for recycling or disposal. In the absence of a national regulation for toxic and hazardous waste – demining organizations may ask battery suppliers whether they will take back spent batteries for recycling.