At 10 p.m., on 30 January 2000, in the northern Romanian town of Baia Mare, a mine tailings dam burst releasing over 100,000 cubic metres (the equivalent of 40 Olympic sized swimming pools) of cyanide and heavy metal contaminated water into the Sasar, Lapus, Somes and Tisza rivers. After two weeks, the contaminated water reached the Danube and then continued on, eventually reaching the Black Sea.
The contamination caused substantial fish kills along sections of the affected rivers as well as significant disruptions to water supplies. The true economic costs of the spill at Baia Mare will never be known as the heavy metal contamination will linger in the environment for many decades after the spill.
The 10th anniversary of this accident is a reminder of the need for vigilance to prevent industrial accidents. Through the secretariat of its Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (Industrial Accidents Convention), the UNECE has been supporting its member countries in their joint work to reduce the likelihood of an industrial accident for over the past 10 years.
The Industrial Accidents Convention has organised various workshops with government departments to highlight legislative options and best practice for improving major hazard prevention across the UNECE region. It established a web-based Industrial Accident Notification (IAN) System, which enables countries to notify promptly their neighbours about any industrial accidents.
In-field training exercises have also been conducted with local authorities to practice emergency response procedures that will reduce the effects of an industrial accident if one occurs.
Additionally, the Industrial Accidents Convention and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) negotiated with governments and industry the Protocol on Civil Liability.
Almost 10 years after its entry into force, the Industrial Accidents Convention will continue to work with countries across the UNECE region to increase international cooperation in the effort against industrial accidents and their detrimental effects on people and the environment.
Notes to editors
The Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents was adopted in Helsinki on 17 March 1992 and entered into force on 19 April 2000. It has been ratified by 38 countries plus the European Union: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic Of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
The Convention helps countries reduce the likelihood of industrial accidents occurring and to minimize their effects, particularly on neighbouring countries, if accidents do occur. In recent years, an Assistance Programme for countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia and South Eastern Europe has been created to better support them implement the Industrial Accidents Convention. Website: www.unece.org/env/teia
Since its entry into force in 1996 the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) has provided an important legal framework and contributed to improving transboundary water management in the pan-European region. Currently, 35 countries and the European Community are Parties to the Convention, covering almost the entire UNECE region. Website: www.unece.org/env/water
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