U.N. Agency Says Debris in Pakistan's Quake Zone Could Pose Serious Health Risks
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Debris and waste left uncleared since last month's massive earthquake in Pakistan could become toxic and pose serious health dangers, a U.N. agency warned Sunday.
The warning came a day after donors pledged US$3.4 billion (euro2.9 billion) in new aid for Pakistan to rebuild villages and cities in its northwest and its portion of Kashmir, where the Oct. 8 quake left an estimated 86,000 people dead.
The quake flattened entire villages and large portions of cities, leaving "unprecendented large quantities of debris and waste" from collapsed buildings and landslides, a U.N. Environment Program official told a news conference.
"We have these tons and tons and tons of waste and debris laying about," program Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel said. "The waste that cannot be put to any good use needs to be managed properly, otherwise a lot of the waste can turn toxic, can degenerate into toxic material thereby posing serious challenges to health."
Kakakhel also urged the Pakistani government to ensure forests are not pillaged to supply wood for reconstruction.
A joint study by Pakistan and the U.N. Environment Program on the quake's environmental impact says that debris from shattered buildings as well as human and medical waste in the quake zone threaten to pollute the region's streams.
Amin Aslam Khan, Pakistan's minister of state for environment, said that the government needs US$22 million (euro18.68 million) for the first 18 months to begin restoring the environment.
Source: Associated Press