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It is estimated that Iraq has several thousand contaminated sites resulting from a combination of general industrial activities, military activities, post-conflict damage and looting. Many of the sites are derelict and open to public access.They contain substantial quantities of hazardous waste and present a threat to human health and to the environment.
In partnership with the Iraq Ministry of Environment and with funding from the Government of Japan, UNEP implemented an Environmental Site Assessment project to assist Iraq in tackling this problem. The project combined practical capacity building for the Iraq partners with detailed
assessment work on five priority sites. These included a demolished plating works, a looted pesticides warehouse, a fire damaged chemicals warehouse, a sulphur mining and processing complex, and a military equipment scrap yard.
All of the sites investigated had multiple environmental problems, however one site was found to present an immediate and severe health hazard due to the presence of highly toxic waste. At the national level, two priorities were identified; firstly the expansion of this first phase of work into a priority programme of site assessment and emergency intervention, and secondly the construction of a central hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility.
A follow up UNEP and Ministry of Environment project to address the identified toxic waste on the worst of the first five sites has commenced.