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The Bamako Convention: Management of Hazardous Waste Materials Movement Essay


Waste can be defined as unwanted or useless materials which are supposed to be discarded because they have no use; the large amount of waste in today’s environment can be directly attributed and linked to human activities are either technological, economical and social ( Melfort p.8-9).

On the other hand Hazardous waste can be defined as waste which has the potential to adversely threaten human health life or the environment within a very short period of time due to their toxic nature. Hazardous wastes are not ordinarily supposed to be released directly into the environment but rather disposed by very special techniques that are scientifically tested and proven to neutralize their effects (Murphy 45).

The aim of this essay is to take a critical look how certain regions/nations have put into place legal mechanisms that are supposed to stop the act of importation and in particular dumping of hazardous materials such as nuclear wastes. The Bamako convention is one such treaty that has been instrumental in securing African countries from being dumping ground of hazardous wastes that are imported from foreign countries.

The composition of dissimilar waste depends on time, the nature of the industry and even location and hence this is why some waste can be considered as very dangerous while other are less dangerous.

With rapid industrial development and innovation in the business industry and government activities being openly linked to waste materials, many governments around the world have resulted to developing appropriate waste management policies and legal frameworks with the aim of encouraging sustainable development practices (Douglas p.78-79).

An appropriate example includes the ban of nylon plastics usage and high levels of regulation nuclear technology industry which requires those within the industry to appropriately discard radioactive materials without interfering with human health and the environment.

In some cases certain components of waste may poses economical value and hence they are reusable but in other instances some waste may end up being to dangerous to be used therefore they require special methods of discarding them (Risoluti p.4-8).

Waste can be classified as bio chemical waste, hazardous waste, and municipal waste. Nuclear waste are considered as very dangerous waste and when it comes to disposing them organizations which are liable for creating the waste are required to use special techniques that are most of the time quite expensive to dispose nuclear waste in an appropriate manner (Feustel p.37).

Hazardous waste/Nuclear Waste

Toxic Wastes that are considered as hazardous waste, radioactive materials which are usually by-products of nuclear power generation within various countries which have the capacity to develop nuclear plants. Although nuclear power is highly appropriate the downside is that it requires a lot of expertise and careful handling otherwise the waste could be extremely dangerous and harmful not only to humans but the environment (Melfort p.64).

Apart from nuclear power generation, nuclear waste can also arise out of nuclear fission research and experiments or even in hospital x-ray departments and other medical procedures that involve use of radioactive medicine. Radioactive waste substances are very harmful to human health and the environment, and are often regulated by government and international treaties so that individuals in this industry can follow well set and scientifically approved guidelines to dispose of nuclear waste (Risoluti p.4-8).

Radioactive materials are dangerous due to the fact that even after disposing radioactive materials, dangerous levels of radioactivity in radioactive substances such as Uranium and radium diminish over time (Risoluti p.62-66).

This timeframe is known as the half life of radioactive materials this hence means that by inappropriately disposing radioactive isotopes they may continue to emit radio harmful radioactive waste for many years and pose a major threat to the surrounding environment before they become harmless (Liberatore & Lewanski p.55).

Additionally, different procedures are followed while disposing different types of radioactive isotopes this hence means that the actual time frame that waste must be stored depends on the particular radioactive isotope that is in question in this case materials that have low levels of radiations especially those used in small laboratories such as hospitals and those used for medical purpose may be required to be stored for relatively shorter periods before they become harmless (Douglas 78-79).

Conversely radioactive materials that are used in nuclear plants are considered as very dangerous and often waste management experts have to use special techniques to dispose them over very long periods of time sometimes even for thousands of years (Risoluti p.144).

Local and international nuclear disposal policy frameworks act as a clear set of acceptable guidelines that regulate how the nuclear industry define and dispose all radioactive waste materials. International treaties governing the disposal of radioactive material serve as a robust assessment framework system under which experts in the field of nuclear material can make reference to especially when it comes to the handling of nuclear waste (Melfort p.94).

This way experts can refer to well established guidelines and be able to successfully establish and stick to priority sectors, products and materials as required by the legal framework within their industry, moreover well laid procedures enable experts in this field to dispose tonnages of waste using the most acceptable techniques in order to avoid harming future generations, nuclear wasteland is developed countries such as the U.S.A. is done in the specially selected areas in the desert, this locations are specially selected locations that are away from any forms of life.

Additionally, individuals are able to take responsibility of their actions and experts in this industry operate with a culture of responsibility extra care and accountability knowing the adverse effects of radioactivity (Murphy 46).

In the recent past, many countries have been accused of damping hazardous waste in the form of nuclear waste in various parts of the world especially oceans and in third world countries this trend is becoming dangerous and it threatening to destruct the balance in nature (Douglas 78-79). Damping of waste is highly dangerous especially if the required protocol that is set when damping hazardous materials such as nuclear waste is not followed then the environment will eventually degrade.

When companies decide to save on costs and use compromised containers to store and dump these waste the eventuality is that they will leak and consequently then the immediate environment is more likely to be destroyed. One such case is the case of Italy taking advantage if a poor third world country such as Nigeria and dumping waste in the country (Dufour & Denis 76).

Italy produces closed to over 50 million tons of hazardous waste annually with a good proportion of these wastes being hazardous waste such as radioactive nuclear waste. Italy has been accused of exporting some of its dangerous hazardous waste to developing countries (Liberatore & Lewanski p.55).

One of the most notable cases included a case whereby the country signed an illegal treaty with a Nigerian businessman whereby the country was allowed to store over 15,000 drums of hazardous radioactive waste in his farm, Italy agreed to pay the business man around $100 a month (Douglas 78-79). The truth about the matter was that such a practice was in breach of international waste management protocols because the manner in which the materials were disposed was posing a threat to the immediate environment.

This has not been the only case of irresponsible management of hazardous waste by developed countries records indicate that deadly waste dumping in developing countries began back in the 1970’s and nations such as France was were among the nations that took advantage of their former colonies by entering into deals with current regimes in order to gain space of damping hazardous unwanted materials (Glover p.20; Paul p.54).

The U.S.A has also been among countries whose companies which have been responsible of damping waste in developing countries in the year 1979 it was discovered that American company, Nedlog Technology Group, Inc., the government of Sierra Leone approximately $30 million to use its territory for waste disposal (Tiersten p.116-117).

The President of Sierra Leone but pressure from neighboring countries and the international community forced the government of Sierra Leone to back out of the deal. The increased damping of hazardous waste which includes radioactive materials has hence become a very huge concern in the international community forcing various arms of the United Nations and concerned stakeholders to come up with necessary mechanisms to discourage this behavior (Puckett, Stirling & and Vallette p.26-31).

The Bamako Convention

After many instances of developed countries taking advantage of developed countries by importing waste materials across borders the African Union was forced to call urgency meetings and urge all African states to develop the necessary mechanisms to an a legal framework in the form of a convention in order manage the movement of hazardous waste materials across borders ( Risoluti p.4-8).

There are a number of treaties/international conventions that were developed tom govern the move of wastes and hazardous wastes across borders some of these conventions include the Stockholm convention, the Bamako convention, the Basel and Rotterdam conventions. The main aim of these conventions is to ensure that individuals who exist in industries producing a lot of hazardous wastes create the necessary facilities to handle waste material appropriately without compromising the environment.

The international community decided to for these conventions due to the fact that numerous cases and uproars concerning dumping hazardous and dangerous substances was taking place in large scale in a transnational scale (Schissel p.47-49). One such treaty is the Bamako Convention (Bamako Convention on the ban on the Import into Africa and the Control of Trans-boundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa) that came into effect into force in 1998.

Previous cases of dumping hazardous waste by developed countries such as Italy, France and organizations from the united states prompted the international community to come together and negotiate this treaty in order to save the environment and enforce more responsibility when it comes to damping hazardous waste (Liberatore & Lewanski p.55).

Convention was signed and eventually adopted by 51 African Countries at an environment conference by government representatives Bamako, Mali, back in the year 1991.The treaty later came into force in the year 1998 and only African counties are expected to abide by it (Risoluti p.25).

The range of the Bamako Convention is restricted to issues that concern the handling of hazardous wastes such as nuclear material but not hazardous wastes that may often arise out of ship discharges/leakages that are covered by other international conventions. Hazardous such as nuclear materials are particularly banned, within the signatory states and it is hence an offence for the citizens of these countries to enter into such contract that will foreign states to import waste materials into their land.

Radioactive wastes also encourage signatory states to put in place necessary parliamentary statutes that will be used by Parties are to enforce a complete ban on hazardous waste importation that come from neighboring states or even developed countries. The action of dumping of hazardous wastes at sea’s also discouraged because it poses a threat the ability of nations to create new water resources.

Additionally signatory countries are expected to establish the appropriate monitoring and regulatory that will carefully monitor trans-boundary proliferation of hazardous wastes Moreover governments through regulatory agencies are expected regularly to exchange relevant information on incidents of hazardous wastes so that the necessary legal action can be taken against those who are responsible for dumping hazardous wastes in particular areas.

The main aim of this convention was to ensure that the importation of hazard waste from other regions of the world intro Africa was put into an end (Schissel p.47-49). The previous cases that had featured on world headlines prompted the African Union to lobby support from other international bodies’ in order to bring an end to the careless dumping of hazardous waste into African territory and taking advantage of poor African countries (Melfort p.54).

Additional the treaty put a ban on dumping hazardous wastes into ocean disposal and dictates that all African countries Parties reduce intra-African waste trade. All African countries and their trade partners are require to engage in environmentally sound waste management practices and ensure that the discarding of hazardous wastes is carried out in a manner that the ensures the safety concern of the environment and communities within dumping regions is not affected (Odauran p.56).

The advantage about the Bamako Convention is that it is a treaty that provides well-built legal prohibitions and guidelines that aim to put an end to irresponsible damping of hazardous waste that are imported into the African continent by developed countries and multinational corporations that want to take advantage of the poverty situation and the corrupt regimes of the African continent (Odauran p.57).

The act of damping was declared as an illegal and criminal act and all signatories were urged to further incorporate then elements of the convention into their country laws in order to harmonies anti-dumping laws all over Africa (Porter p.74). The ban further more is applicable to products which have been deregistered in various regions of the world due to environmental and health concerns.

Moreover the Bamako convention does not allow Member states to engage in hazardous waste incineration at sea and oceans. The convention furthermore urges member states to come up with industrial activities that do not produce a lot of hazardous wastes by perusing sustainable business practices that have the environment and the health of the society as a primary concern (Schissel p.47-49).


Waste management poses a huge challenge in various regions of the world many individuals, organizations and this has forced governments to develop sound practices, and be particularly weary of the threats that irresponsible waste management poses to the environment and to living organisms.

Situations whereby developed counties simply dump hazardous materials in poorer and less fortunate countries is now a forbidden practice of the past that is illegal. Every nation and organization is now required to develop the appropriate waste management techniques and systems that are able to cater for their industrial activities because when dealing with hazardous materials there are a lot of dangers that the environment, other animals and human beings are exposed to.

The Bamako convention’s main aim was to protect human health and also ensure that the environment is free from the dangers that normally emanate from damping and importing hazardous waste and up to this day it has been successful in reducing instances of waste importation.

The convention has enabled various African countries easily come up with a legal framework that has discouraged developed countries from approaching them and offering them money in order to dump dangerous waste in their territories. The effect of trans-boundary damping among signatory states has therefore as a result drastically dropped leading to a less polluted environment within Africa.


Douglas H., 1992. “Toxic Banking.” The Nation. Vol 254, pp. 78-79.

Dufour, J.P. & Denis, C., 1998. “The North’s Garbage Goes South.” World Press Review. Vol 35 pp.30-32.

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Glover, J., 1991. “Italian Industry Aims To Get Greener, But on Its Own Terms.” Chemical Week. 14/5, pp. 20.

Liberatore, A. & Lewanski, R.,1990.” The Evolution of Italian Environmental Policy.” Environment 32.pp 115-116.

Melfort, S.W., 2003. Nuclear waste disposal: current issues and proposals. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Murphy, S. D., 1993. “The Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes.” Environment 35 pp.42-44.

Odauran, A. B., 1989. “Education against Environmental Pollution in Nigeria” Convergence 22/4, pp 55-60.

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Porter R.C.,2002. The economics of waste. Washington: RFF Press book.

Puckett, J., Stirling, A & and Vallette, J.,1990. “Preventing the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Including Nuclear Wastes in the Mediterranean Region — A Call for a Legal Instrument within the Barcelona Convention.” Greenpeace International, Waste Trade Campaign (September 14, 1990): pp 1-44.

Risoluti, P.,2003. Nuclear waste: a technological and political challenge. New York: Springer

Schissel, H., 1988.”The Deadly Trade: Toxic waste dumping in Africa.” Africa Report 33, pp 47-49.

Tiersten, S., 1998. “Toxic Waste Poisons the Soil: And Property Deals.” Electronic Business, pp116-118.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Bamako Convention: Management of Hazardous Waste Materials Movement'. 28 November.

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