Letter: Ecological threat in the war zone

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The Independent Online
Sir: The war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina is brutal in the extreme. Tens of thousands of dead and wounded and almost a million refugees are eloquent evidence of this. Slovenia has been doing its utmost to try to alleviate the crisis and has, among other measures, taken on a great burden of caring for about 80,000 Bosnian and Croatian refugees.

The parliament of the Republic of Slovenia has just pointed to another aspect of the war. Such an extensive military conflict has inevitable ecological consequences. These are made worse when the aggressor is unselective about the means, and destroys whole towns and villages, burns down forests, threatens to destroy hydroelectric power dams, poisons wells and bombards refineries, petrol dumps and large chemical works. It is almost impossible to calculate the short- or long-term effects of this destruction.

The Sodaso chemical plant in Tuzla is a good example. Armed conflict has been raging around this installation for some time. Stored in the plant are 300 tons of liquid chlorine, 32 tons of ethyl oxide, 54 tons of mercury, 8 tons of propylene oxide and 100 tons of hydrochloric acid. In addition, 23 wagons of chloride are blockaded on an open railway line in the near vicinity.

Experts calculate that if these chemical materials were to enter the environment, tens of thousands of people would die immediately and hundreds of thousands would suffer serious health damage. An area of countryside around Tuzla with a diameter of more than 100km would suffer long-term soil contamination, and there would be catastrophic poisoning of rivers, including the Danube. Depending on the wind, the effects could be felt far beyond the frontiers of the former

Yugoslavia.

The Slovenian parliament believes that all governments should do everything in their power to end as soon as possible the military conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yours faithfully,

MATJAZ SINKOVEC

Ambassador

Embassy of the Republic

of Slovenia

London, WC1

14 September

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