Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter: briefing by department


22 April 1998
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Meeting report

22 April 1998

>Benjamin, Ms. J
>Chalmers, Mrs. J
>Goosen, Rev. AD
>Lekgoro, Mr. MK
>Mabudafhasi, Mrs. RT
>Mahlangu, Mrs. GL
>Ndou, Mr. AJD
>Ratshitanga, Mr. TR
>September, Mr. RK
>Tiry, Mr. M (AP)
>Van der Merwe, Ms. SC
>National Party:
>Appelgryn, Dr. MS
>De Wet, Mr. JF
>Le Roux, mnr JW
>Van Wyk, mev A
>Visiting Members:
>Mabuza, cm Mr. S
>Twala, Ms. M
> Contents
>I. Meeting Convened and Welcome
>II. London Convention
>A. Briefing
>B. Questions and Responses
>III. Basel Convention
>A. Briefing
>B. Questions and Responses
>IV. Wetlands Conservation Bill
>A. Briefing
>B. Discussion
>V. Closing Remarks and Discussion and Adjournment


>I. The Chairperson, Gwen Mahlangu, introduced the guests from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA & T) >: Dr. Lynn Jackson, Assistant Director of the Marine Pollution >Division, DEA & T; Mr. Paul Moclears, Chief Director, DEA & T; Mr. William >Scott, Director of Pollution Control, DEA & T; Dr. Geoff Cowan, Deputy >Director of Ecosystems, DEA & T, and Jason Mitschele, Intern on the South >African Environment Project, Canadian Government Internship.

Ms >Mahlangu reported on the efforts >to revamp the scheduling system to alleviate the problem of time conflicts >between Committee meetings. She then turned the floor over to Dr. Jackson for her briefing on the London Convention.
>II. London Convention
>A. The London Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution, known as the
>London Convention, first convened in 1972. The goal of the Convention was to
>regulate the dumping of wastes at sea. The definition of dumping does not
>include any discharge by pipelines, but encompasses all other disposal of
>wastes from manmade structures. The definition was later extended to include
>incineration at sea.
Dumping at sea is a common practice of waste disposal, and the >Convention is trying to regulate but not prohibit these practices. In the >Republic of South Africa (RSA) dumping is not as common a practice as >disposal of wastes through pipelines. The most common dumping includes the >sinking of old ships and vessels and the dumping of defunct ammunition and >spoiled cargoes.
In 1975 the London Convention came into power with 75 contracting parties, >but only a few from Africa, including RSA, Democratic Republic of Congo, the >Seychelles, and Kenya.
RSA ratified the original Convention in 1978 and the provisions were brought
>into force through the legislation Act 73/1980. The RSA continued to
>participate in the biannual meetings of the Convention. Resolutions were
>adopted in these meetings for the reduction and the elimination of certain
>types of dumping. Radio-active waste dumping ceased in 1983 and was
>permanently banned in 1993. In 1990 a resolution was passed to phase out
>large amounts of dumping of industrial wastes by 1995. The incineration of
>hazardous wastes was phased out in 1991. Sewage dumping remains but
>resolutions have been proposed to phase out the dumping of sewage in certain >areas.
Dredge spoil consists of 80-90% of the total material dumped into marine >waters. Ten percent of that volume is though to be highly contaminated on a >global scale. It is thought that this dumping is likely to continue.
The resolutions proposed should be incorporated into the body of the >Convention. The Amendments Committee met over a period of three years with the >result of the 1996 Protocol which will eventually completely replace the >original Convention. The general protocol is the same but enforcement >abilities have been enhanced in several ways which are outlines in the >documents provided.
The Permitting System of the new protocol allows for only select categories
>of dumping including: dredge spoil, sewage sludge, fish processing wastes,
>vessels and platforms, inert geologic materials, and bulky items made of steel
>and concrete(this concession is made especially for small island nations). All >dumping permit requests must be assessed by waste assessment guidelines.
The new protocol holds no major changes for the DEA & T. The legislation must >change to accommodate new provisions which require tighter control and a >stronger regime for controlling dumping of wastes at sea.
>B. Questions were posed to Dr. Jackson:
>Q: What is the RSA’s approach to sewage and dredge spoil dumping, how is it >controlled? And how are waste assessment guidelines different from >Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines?
>A: There is no dumping of sewage, all sewage is piped out to sea which is
>controlled and permitted by the Department of Water Affairs. The controls on
>dumping and sewage are fragmented among many different departments. No EIA is >required for the disposal of dredge spoil. An annual permit is required for
>the annual maintenance which is routine for harbors and ports mostly along the >East Coast. There are analyses done of samples of the sediments from
>and the level of contaminants affect the permit for disposal. There are >special dumping procedures for highly contaminated sediments which usually >occur in areas of ship maintenance in harbors.
>Q: Chalmers (ANC): What are the licensing procedures for dumping in internal >waters? What internal waters in South Africa are being used for dumping? And >are these areas’ needs not being met by the protocol?
>A: Only marine waters are included in the protocol which include the "internal >waters" which are defined by any water which falls in between the coast and >the baseline drawn around a country, such as False Bay. The protocol is very >adequate for dumping. Problems occur from waste disposal which falls outside >the legal definition of dumping. However, the new protocol is a big >improvement.
>Q: Marais(NP): What is the circumstances surrounding the dumping of arms and >ammunition.
>A: Permits allocate special dump sites all in very deep water. Some mishaps
>occurred with bombs washing up on beaches before the protocol came into force. >No dumping of arms is allowed in shallow water. Ammunition falls under >industrial waste. As of 1995 the Defense Force was no longer allowed to
>ammunition and has been working to find alternative means of disposal. They
>are working on improving their housekeeping so there is not such large
>stockpiles of expired ammunition, redesigning the ammunition, and developing
>land based disposal (which has received a lot of opposition). There is >currently a large stockpile of ammunition waiting for disposal.
>Q: Marais (NP): Is there any form of on-going monitoring?
>A: No regulation or monitoring of the munitions stockpiles in Gauteng.
>It was posed to submit an inquiry to the Ministry of Defense with regards to the
>status of ammunition disposal.
>Q: Dr. Benjamin (ANC): Who is expected to manage the 10% highly contaminated >dredge material?
>A: That 10% figure is a global estimate and is expected to be much lower in
>South Africa. There are only a few cities where >high levels of contamination occur. Portnet manages the dredge material. They >are developing guidelines with the DEA & T and they are making progress in >improving management.
>Q: What can be done to regulate the material being piped into the sea? Is it
>controlled by the DEA & T? Why is it not covered in the protocol? Is it being
>covered adequately?
>A: The Department of Water Affairs regulates pipelines into the sea. The DEA &
>T is working closely with them, especially in the Western Cape, but there is
>only a small staff and the partnership is purely optional. It is a problem and new
>policy on the environment allows this Department to be the lead agent which >should put the DEA & T in a stronger position.
>Q: Le Roux (NP): Is there radio-active material being dumped along the African
>coast? And, is it not such a bad thing to sink old vessels?
>A: There is no information of any radio-active dumping along the South African
>coast, but we cannot be definitive about other African countries. Vessels can be
>used to create artificial reefs, but there is a divided opinion about the
>benefits of this process. Structures can settle into marine life and provide
>recreational diving spots. There is no capability to follow through on a >program for artificial reef development. There is a concern about littering >the sea bed. A report on suitable areas for sinking vessels is required.
>Q: Are there any economic implications for the Contracting Parties of the >London Convention?
>A: South Africa makes no monetary contributions to the London Convention and
>there are no requirements to supply staff.
>Comment from Department: There needs to be a decision in government about >which department is responsible for waste management.
>Q: Chalmers (ANC): Is there any illegal dumping going on? And is there any way to >monitor it?
>A: There is not a lot of dumping in South Africa. This occurs mostly in the
>Northern Hemisphere where there has been a push to develop clean technology.
>The London Convention pushed the development of other options to reduce waste.
>Q: Are there any trans-boundary issues or regulations? And have any
>neighboring countries agreed to the protocol?
>A: The UN Convention monitors the international waters and there are only
>broad provisions on international marine pollution. Very few African countries
>are members of the Convention.
>Q: September (ANC): What is the progress in South Africa and other SADEC countries >on monitoring pollution?
>A: All neighboring countries attended a workshop sponsored by the DEA & T on
>marine pollution management. The countries who attended requested a follow-up
>workshop in two years. Some have asked assistance in implementing provisions
>of the Convention. The workshop recommended the establishment of a network to >better assist neighboring countries in marine pollution control.
The >Chairperson stated that there were advantages to ratification and the legal implications >of the protocol. The protocol is not in conflict with domestic legislation >and should not be a problem to ratify, but he requested guidance from the members >of the committee.
>The committee TThe committee members agreed that there should not be a problem with ratification, but that it would be >nice to have more time to consider the document. The Committee agreed to >ratify the Convention when more members were present. The Chairperson noted that >according to the rules of Parliament there were not enough committee members >present to proceed with a ratification.
>II. Basel Convention
>A. A briefing of the Basel Convention was given by Mr. Scott. He gave a >summary of documents included.
>B. The Chairperson called for a further understanding of the amendments to the
>Basel Convention in question before ratification. She asked for Mr. Scott to
>summarize the benefits for South Africa if the amendments were ratified.
>Q: September: How does the Bamako Convention relate?
>A: Bamako is similar to the Basel Convention but it doesn’t prevent movement
>of wastes within the continent, it only prevents the importing of wasted into >Africa.
>While right now South Africa is not in a position to be importing wastes for
>treatment because we are still working on treating our own wastes, in the >future we may possess treatment technologies which our neighbors do not. >Thinking of the future is essential when considering import bans.
>Q: September: If RSA is in the position to process wastes should be accepted
>from other countries?
>A: The most important problem is treating our own hazardous waste, but in due
>course border controls with SADEC countries may be reduced to allow for >treatment of external wastes. But, if we cannot treat our own waste we >should not accept other’s waste.
>The Chairperson requests that discussion be confined to the issues being discussed.
>Q: Chalmers: Would not it be better to export the technology which allows >treatment rather than importing waste?>
>Q: Benjamin: Does Britain participate in the Convention because I have heard
>of reports of toxic waste being shipped from there? What are the amendments >going to do for RSA?
>A: Unaware of toxic exports from Britain, if there were any they would be >illegal.
>Chairperson: What are the controls on imports of wastes?
>A: The only controls are the border and customs posts at which the only check
>done routinely are permit checks. There is not physical inspection of the
>waste items. There is a need for more training of customs officials. Some
>obsolete pesticides are being requested to be sent to UK for proper disposal
>with advanced technology. There are allowances made for bilateral agreements
>between signatories and nonsignatories, but at the moment there are none. The
>Bamako Convention gives more specific guidelines on types of waste permitted
The >Chairperson called for more discussion after further in-depth study of the documents. >There is not enough understanding of the Basel Convention Amendments.
>September requested copies of the Bamako Convention to facilitate understanding >of the issues. The Chairperson called for two weeks until further discussion can take >place and then a sub-committee may be formed for further investigation if it >is deemed necessary.
>III. Wetlands Conservation Bill - Dr. Geoff Cowan
>A. Values of the Wetlands
The benefits of the Wetlands include food supply such as fish, plants, and >crustaceans; employment; recreation and leisure; education, scientific and >cultural aspects, and many products which come out of the wetlands. The >wetlands also provide a water supply. They are critical areas which need >protection. The wetlands have many functions which include flood attenuation,
>ground water, nutrient absorption, and retention of sediments. There is a lack >of legislation on wetland conservation. The entire legislative body includes The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes >and other Matter, known as the Convention here, was first signed in 1971 by >South Africa, and it was ratified in 1975. There are 106 contracting parties
>of which fifteen are from Africa. The Convention’s focus is on habitat, not>just species, protection. The definition of wetlands basically consists of any >wet areas such as marshes, swamps, dams, rivers, flood plains, estuaries, sea >grass, kelp beds, and coral reefs to name some.

The objective of the Convention is to stem the loss of wetland areas. In >South Africa there is a reported loss of over half of the existing wetlands in >the last century. The Convention is meant to promote wiser use of wetlands, >promote special protection of listed wetland areas of which there are >currently fifteen with two more proposed, the management and monitoring of>wetlands, and the obligation of parties in designing, protecting and reporting >losses.

The Bill was first presented under the previous government. It was called the
>Wetlands Conservation Bill but actually just demanded the cessation of mining in>the St. Lucia area. A revised Bill was sent to the table in 1995, still the >Wetlands Conservation Bill. This Bill still has the mining at St. Lucia as its >chief priority but had broadened its scope. The Bill was circulated for >comments and both the Department of Minerals and the Charter of Mines >objected. The comments were worked into the amendments of the Bill, and it was >decided that the Bill had a good premise but need more fine-tuning and >discussion at the table. The new Bill is expected soon. There are a few groups >which have objections about the Bill such as Mineral and Energy Affairs, the >Natal Parks Board, the Gauteng Environment and Tourism Bureau, and the >Northern Cape. >The Bill is progressing slowly. The definition of the wetlands is considered a
>problem as well as the legal aspects of the definition.
>B. Discussion
>The Bill is not meant to stop development in all wetlands but rather to >formulate the planning. All Conventions become part of municipal law and would >have to be brought into legislation. Mr. September called for a further >understanding of wetlands and the issues surrounding them before further >discussion and decisions take place. One of the big problems facing the >wetlands is ignorance which has been found even within the committee.> A visit to a wetland area was proposed, possibly St. Lucia, or in the Durban area >during the INDABA convention. Mr September noted that such a visit could be very >costly. Dr. Cowan requested that the visit take place after May 15 so he could >be involved.
>The INDABA conference was discussed and travel arrangements addressed. The >Committee asked for R19,000 for the trip even though it will probably cost >less and they are still waiting for the final decision on the funding. It is >proposed that the trip will most likely consist of three ANC members and three >NP members. Since the budget for the committee has been reduced from R250,000
>to R165,000 the funding may not come through.
>The DEA & T workshop on marine pollution attracted the attention of US Aid
>which has proposed that the committee submit a proposal of some kind. The
>committee is planning a trip to the United States to work with American
>environmental policy makers. The Chairperson asked members to consider if they would >like to make the trip in the middle of June. Hopefully the trip will prove >enlightening on matters of legislation and enforcement.
>The meeting is adjourned after the Chairperson thanked all for attending.
>Appendix 1




More than 500 delegates from approximately 120 countries attended the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4). Also present were various UN organisations, intergovernmental bodies and several non-governmental organisations, representing industry and the green movements. The official South African delegation consisted of six persons (Department of Foreign Affairs 2, the High Commissioner's Office 2 and Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism 2) and was led by the High Commissioner to Malaysia, Miss M Mohale. Neither the Minister nor the Deputy Minister was able to attend.

The two main issues at the meeting were firstly, the acceptance of lists of wastes subject to the ban amendment and secondly, expanding the number of countries that must apply the ban decision.

The First Main Issue: The Ban Amendment and Lists of Wastes

The Ban Amendment adopted in 1995 as Decision III/1 by the Third Conference of the Parties (COP3) prevents the movement of hazardous waste from OECD countries to non-OECD countries. The ban came into immediate effect for final disposal operations and was to come into effect for hazardous waste recycling operations by 31 December 1997. Decision III/1 also instructed a subsidiary body of the Convention, the Technical Working Group (TWG), to develop lists of wastes that will be subject to the amendment for consideration at COP4.

Two lists resulting from the work of the TWG was adopted by COP4 as new Annexes to the Convention in Decision IV/9. The incorporation of the new Annexes into the Convention is the second amendment to the Convention that must now be ratified by the Parties. The new Annex VIII is a list of hazardous wastes with 59 entries and the new Annex IX is a list of wastes not considered hazardous with 53 entries. The adoption of these lists has resulted in a greater degree of clarity by defining with more precision which wastes are affected by the Ban Amendment and which are not. In the process of establishing the lists a review mechanism was developed making it possible to add or remove or modify entries to the list. The hard work of the TWG was duly recognised at the meeting.

The majority of the Parties were awaiting the final adoption of the TWG waste lists prior to the ratification of the first (COP3) amendment to the Convention. At the time of the meeting only the European Community plus seven Parties (all of them OECD countries) have ratified this amendment. It is also now possible for Parties to ratify the second (COP4) List Amendment to the Convention without ratifying the earlier amendment. It is to be expected that formal ratification of either or both amendments by the international community may now proceed at a faster rate (see also Decision IV/8 below) despite problems that some Parties have with the COP3 amendment.

The Second Main Issue: Expanding the Number of Countries Applying the Ban Amendment (The Annex VII Issue)

Annex VII was created at COP3 as part of the Ban Amendment and is a list of Parties that prohibits transboundary movement of hazardous wastes to states not listed in Annex VII.

At present Annex VII reads as follows:

A Parties and other States which are members of OECD, EC, Liechtenstein

Addition of more countries to Annex VII was considered in two proposals before COP4. The first proposal (from Monaco) was to add Monaco and the second (from Israel) was to add both Monaco and Israel to Annex VII. At COP3 Monaco was originally proposed together with the EC and Liechtenstein for inclusion in Annex VII. The rationale for this was the physical locality of Monaco within the borders of France and the fact that there is no border control between Monaco and France. However, the absence of proper representation from Monaco at a crucial stage of the COP3 meeting prevented it from inclusion in Annex VII for technical reasons. It was clear that the majority of Parties did not have any objections to the addition of Monaco to Annex VII, which effectively only rectified the Ban Amendment to its original intention.

The addition of Israel to Annex VII was a highly political issue. Strong opposition especially from the Arab League countries made it impossible to reach any consensus and virtually impossible to move forward. The Green Movements (Greenpeace International and the newly formed BAN or Basel Action Network) argued that any addition to Annex VII, whether it is Monaco or Israel or any other country, is going to weaken the ban.

It would allow the movement of hazardous wastes from OECD countries to selected non-OECD countries (i.e. those countries that may be placed on Annex VII) contrary to the

spirit of the Ban Amendment. These extremely rigid positions therefore torpedoed Monaco's reasonable application, while Israel's application never really had a chance from the start.

In anticipation of the intense political differences guidance was requested from Cabinet on South Africa's position on the addition of Israel to Annex VII prior to the COP4 meeting. Cabinet was informed that the effective division of the world into OECD and non-OECD countries was simplistic, arbitrary and discriminatory. The criteria of adding countries to the OECD list are not at all transparent. (It must be remembered that the OECD is an economic and not an environmental arrangement).

In addition it was brought to Cabinet's attention that South Africa's long term interests could be adversely affected in cases where South Africa had (or may develop) a proven ability to treat or recycle certain waste materials in an environmentally sound manner. Such a capability may be of importance in a regional context. Furthermore, countries could move in due course from a developing to a developed status without necessarily becoming an OECD member. With these considerations in mind Cabinet supported the concept that criteria and standards for addition of countries to Annex VII should be developed applicable to both OECD and non-OECD countries and that these should be based on sound scientific principles and possibly regional representivity.

Following extensive debates and negotiations in which the South African delegation played a prominent role in efforts to reach a compromise, the Parties eventually adopted Decision IV/8 on the Annex VII issue. It was agreed to leave Annex VII unchanged until such time that the ban amendment adopted at COP3 enters into force. Both the TWG and the Legal and Technical Expert Sub-Group were requested to provide Parties with a detailed and documented analysis highlighting issues relating to Annex VII.

Greater prominence for South Africa in the Basel Convention

South Africa received the honour to be appointed to chair the Technical Working Group until the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The Africa Group has been discussing its bid for the position since July 1997 and South Africa was unanimously requested by its African colleagues to assume this position. Due to the nature of its work the TWG is for many Parties the most important subsidiary body of the Convention. The budget adopted at the meeting allows for three meetings of the TWG over the next two years. Consideration will have to be given to hosting one of these meetings in South Africa.

A feasibility study report on the establishment of a sub-regional centre for training and technology transfer in South Africa was tabled at the meeting. This is to be one of three such centres in Africa. The meeting was informed that a selection process to finalise the South African host institution is in progress. Designated host governments were urged to prepare concrete project proposals with detailed budgets to be sent to donors for funding and to prepare feasible action plans for the centres to become financially self-sufficient within a specific time frame.

Discussion and a analysis of the next steps on ratification

South Africa is now in a position to decide on ratification of the two amendments to the Convention. Ratification by the European Community of the Ban Amendment last year as well as the passing of appropriate legislation means that the majority of the OECD countries are in fact already applying the ban. Ratification or not by South Africa will in fact change little of the status quo. Australia, Canada and Japan are the major OECD countries that must still decide on ratification. Indications are that the first two countries may not ratify at this stage. Should South Africa wish to have the Annex VII list of countries reconsidered ratification of the Ban Amendment would be in its interest.

There is some concern however that ratification of the Ban could possibly adversely affect the metal recovery and refinery business and also research into recovery of metals. This would of course only apply to imports from those OECD countries that may decide not to ratify (possibly Australia, New Zealand and Canada and the USA, who is not Party to the Convention at present). The potential value and possible extent of future trade in refinery material that could be interpreted as hazardous waste between South Africa and OECD countries who have not ratified the ban should be investigated to allow a rational decision to be made.

A crucial aspect in these considerations is the definition of the waste subject to the Ban Decision. The new amendment on the incorporation of two lists into the Convention addresses this issue. As far as could be established the new Annex VIII, with the possible exception of certain refinery materials, does not contain any hazardous wastes that South Africa has any reason or need to import from the OECD countries. Serious consideration should be therefore given to ratifying the new Lists Amendment. This would be in line with South Africa's stated policy not to import hazardous wastes from developed countries as well as the relevant clauses in the recently signed Lome Convention.

The problem of importing limited quantities of Annex VIII materials for pure research purposes must still be addressed. Certain established research facilities with a high degree of sophistication in South Africa is in a position to develop new technologies to deal with such materials in an environmentally sound manner. The newly developed know how or technology could be sold to the country where the waste originated. There would be no intention to start a waste trade in such material. However, should the research material originate from an OECD country the ban would not allow transportation of the research material to South Africa.

The best way to resolve the research problem would be through the TWG. With South Africa in the chair of the TWG for the next two years this matter can be given special attention. It should be noted that the recently negotiated and agreed final text on the new Prior Informed Consent Convention on certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides has exempted the use of chemicals and pesticides for research purposes from the Convention. This is something that must be examined in the context of the Basel Convention.

It is the intention that the Department should only make final recommendations on the ratification of both amendments after more consultation of all relevant interested and affected parties. A consultation programme is being finalised so that South Africa will be able to ratify one or both amendments before the end of this year.
W E Scott
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism



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