Probo Koala Environmental Audit


In August 2006, the ship known as "Probo Koala" unloaded 528 cubic meters of toxic waste into the port of Abifjan, Côte d'Ivoire. The materials were loaded onto tanker trucks and dumped in twelve locations around the city. In June 2012, UN Environment was requested to undertake an independent and scientific environmental audit of the sites that were impacted. Follow the rest of the story below or in the story map.

A Toxic Situation

19 AUGUST 2006: 

Probo Koala, a Panamanian registered ship chartered by the shipping company Trafigura, off-loaded 528 cubic meters of liquid wastes in the port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The wastes were generated as the by-product of an industrial process known as “caustic washing” of coker naphtha, an unrefined gasoline typically containing high levels of sulfur. The material was transferred onto tanker trucks operated by a local contractor, and dumped in twelve locations around the city. 

Within hours, local residents, alerted by an overwhelmingly strong smell, reported experiencing a series of detrimental health effects, such as respiratory difficulties and eye and skin irritations.

In the following weeks, over 100,000 people sought medical assistance from public health facilities for similar issues, as well as nosebleeds, digestive problems, nausea and vomiting, and other symptoms.

Location of Dumping Sites

Click play to see the location of the dumping sites around Abidjan.

In the ten years that followed the dumping, a number of clean-up and remediation activities were carried out by various actors, including by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. Despite these initiatives, local populations have continued to express concern over the potential health and environmental impacts of the toxic waste dumping.

Taking Stock of Contaminated Sites

JUNE 2012: UN Environment received a formal request from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to undertake an independent and scientific environmental audit of the sites that were impacted by the dumping of wastes from the Probo Koala.

The Government asked for UN Environment to determine whether the sites continued to pose risks for the environment or for public health, and to make recommendations about additional or corrective clean-up measures that would need to be carried out in case contamination was detected. This included mapping the contamination status of all affected sites and reporting on other chronic environmental problems at the sites.

A team of international experts was deployed to Abdijan in July 2016 and January 2017 to undertake sampling sites at control sites and sites considered to have been affected by the dumping of toxic wastes.

Findings

After two missions and over 130 samples of soil, water, air, sediment, molluscs, fruit and vegetables, none of the sites where waste from the from the Probo Koala were dumped showed contamination exceeding the limits set by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for remediation. 

As a result, none of the sites require additional intervention to clean-up contamination from the 2006 dumping event. However, samples of both test and control sites showed signs of other types of pollution, such as air and groundwater.

Data Dashboard: Contaminated Sites

Click any site point to investigate the details.

MapX Support

MapX supported the spatial information needs of the Probo Koala assessment. Given the high level of public interest and the sensitivity of the data, the information needed to be managed and published through an impartial platform rather than through a commercial service. By consolidating the data in MapX, the platform helps ensure that data remains accessible to policy makers and development partners. Each deliverable is detailed below.
  • Hosting an online spatial data catalog. Site-level data provided by the assessment team was complemented by international datasets related to protected areas, global earth observation data related to surface water extent over time, river, lakes and wetlands. The data was consolidated in a single catalog for management and publication.
  • Publishing a story map of the main findings of the environment audit. A summary story map about the assessment was developed to support the official launch of the report on January 31st 2018. Story maps help summarize key issues, give a voice to affected communities and make data available to non-expert audiences.
  • Customized data dashboard. Site level data is displayed within a customized data dashboard, which highlights key data points, filtered by contamination status and indicating pollution analysis results in addition to photographs of the site. The dashboard contains links to underlying site fact sheets and data sets allowing users to explore data sets in greater detail. 
  • Allowing all maps to be shared through seamless embedding in external websites and on social media.

Project Profile

Partners
  • UN Environment
  • Ministry of Urban Sanitation
  • Environment and Sustainable Development
Scope
17 sites
Status
The MapX spatial data catalogue and story map were successfully launched on 30 January 2018.
Support
Government of Côte d'Ivoire
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Contact
The MapX platform can be deployed to support the spatial information needs of other UN country teams. To discuss specific project needs, please contact the MapX team by emailing david.jensen@un.org. For further information on Probo Koala contact silja.halle@un.org.

Story Map: Environmental Audit of Sites Affected by Dumping of Toxic Waste from the Probo Koala 

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