Hungarian Sludge Redux, Pakistan Opens Border
- Hungarian Sludge, Pakistan Border Reopened
As most people who read this blog probably know already there is a toxic mess in Hungary that rivals the size of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This seems to be a year of massive toxic spills, something to remind us of the cost of our continued march to the drumbeat of unfettered technology. For over 200 years the world has been entranced by the siren call of more and bigger exploitation of the worlds resources for the sake of a life that is abstracted from the natural world. Is this sustainable? We will probably find out sooner than later, and hopefully it will not be too late for us to salvage what is worth keeping of our collective heritage, and our biosphere as a habitable place for humans and other life forms.
This from the BBC
"9 October 2010 Last updated at 05:55 ET
Hungary fears second toxic wave
The Hungarian village of Kolontar has been evacuated after new damage was discovered at a burst reservoir that spilled toxic sludge on Monday.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it was "very likely" that an entire wall of the reservoir would collapse, releasing a fresh wave of chemical effluent.
Mr Orban also said there would be "very severe" consequences for those to blame for the disaster.
At least seven people have died as a result of the accident.
Around 150 people were injured by the spill of up to 700,000 cubic metres (24.7m cu ft) of red toxic sludge - many receiving burns.
Most of those killed were drowned or swept away in Kolontar as the sludge hit on Monday. The village is the closest to the reservoir, and would be expected to bear the brunt if there were a second spill.
Rescue team spokesperson Gyorgyi Tottos said the new damage to the northern wall of the reservoir was relatively minor, but villagers were evacuated as a precaution.
However the prime minister, in a press conference at the scene, painted a more serious picture.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban" (said) "It's in very bad shape and our estimation is that the wall could fall down," he said. "It's very likely that it will happen One consequence is that human lives could be in danger."
Mr Orban said another 500,000 cubic metres of waste could escape if the reservoir wall were breached again.
This would be heavier and thicker than the first spill, and would move slower - but would be even more toxic, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy at the scene.
Besides those evacuated from Kolontar, police were also telling residents of the neighbouring village of Devecser to pack a single suitcase so they could leave quickly if necessary.
All life in the Marcal river, which feeds the Danube, is said to have been extinguished.
The sludge reached the Danube on Thursday, but Hungarian officials said on Friday that the pH level in the river was "normal", easing fears that Europe's second longest river would be significantly polluted.
Emergency crews have been working to dilute the alkaline content of the spill, adding huge quantities of gypsum and chemical fertilisers to the waters of the Marcal and Raba rivers.
The disaster's confirmed death toll rose to seven on Friday, after an 81-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the torrent and two bodies were found on the outskirts of the village of Devecser.
The company responsible for the alumina plant, MAL Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company, has offered its condolences to the families of the bereaved but insists it did nothing wrong.
It said it was devoting "all its energies and efforts" to tackling the spill, and had released 110,000 euros (£96,000) so far to help with the clean-up."
As I have noted before the supply lines for the NATO troops in Afghanistan are perilous at best. On the north they depend on the good will of Central Asian dictators and a sometimes uncooperative Russia. To the Southeast the supplies are from a truculent Pakistan that takes offense when the USA sends helicopters to kill Pakistani troops. It seems that the increased Drone attacks on Pakistani soil have not upset the Pakistani powers. It is not the killing of innocents they resent so much as the death of well placed members of their military. Now after 10 days it is OK for the tankers to bring oil to the NATO military machine. Meanwhile the Taliban has had a field day blowing up these stranded contractors and their supplies.
The question arises, what are NATO troops doing in Afghanistan? They certainly are not going after Al Qaeda, and I can hardly imagine that they are protecting North Atlantic Trade from Soviet aggression, so what are they doing in Central Asia? This is about resources. They are establishing a beachhead for western economic interests, and protecting the development of oil pipe lines through the region to Europe which is highly dependent on Russian and Central Asian oil and natural gas flows. Why the USA is the dominant player has more to do with the weakness of the American economic position which it makes up for in military might, a sign of a misalignment of the worlds political-economic equilibrium. It also is an indicator that international capital is based in the USA and will protect itself with as much military muscle as it deems fit, making the American tax paying stooge foot the bill.
From the Houston Chronicle
Oct 9, 9:09 AM EDT
Pakistan to reopen border crossing that NATO uses
By DAVID RISING
Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD (AP) Pakistan will reopen a key border crossing used to transport supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan, authorities said Saturday - the 10th day of a blockade that has raised tensions with Washington and left stranded trucks vulnerable to attacks.
In a short statement, the Foreign Ministry said it decided to reopen the border after assessing security and that authorities on both sides of the border were coordinating to resume the supply traffic smoothly.
Pakistan closed the northwest crossing at Torkham on Sept. 30, the same day a NATO airstrike killed two Pakistani soldiers along the border. The U.S. on Wednesday apologized for that strike after an investigation concluded the "tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistan military."
Pakistan is a key supply route for fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan. The closure of Torkham has left scores of trucks stranded on their way from the port city of Karachi, and bottlenecked traffic to the open but smaller Chaman crossing in the southwest.
Even when the border reopens, lingering tensions will remain in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, especially over Pakistan's unwillingness to go after Afghan Taliban militants on its territory with whom it has strong historical ties and who generally focus their attacks on Western troops, not Pakistani targets.
The U.S. has dramatically increased the number of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt, including two late Friday in North Waziristan that killed 9 suspected militants - the seventh and eighth missile strikes this month.
In September, the U.S. is believed to have launched at least 21 such attacks, an unprecedented number and nearly all were in North Waziristan.
The U.S. rarely acknowledges the covert missile strike program. Pakistan officially opposes the program, but is believed to secretly support it.
The U.S. and NATO at one point sent some 80 percent of their non-lethal supplies through Pakistan into landlocked Afghanistan, but have been steadily reducing that number, instead using Central Asian routes to the north and other means. About 40 percent of supplies now come through Pakistan, 40 percent through the Central Asian routes, and 20 percent by air, according to the U.S. Embassy.
Perhaps worst effected were the truckers and Pakistani trucking companies, who are not paid until delivery and were regularly attacked while waiting for the crossing to be reopened. Some 2,500 to 3,000 trucks bringing supplies to U.S. or other NATO troops are on Pakistan's roads at any given time.
"This business is getting so dangerous - the recent happenings have made us think about not working for NATO because we can't put our lives in constant danger," said 37-year-old trucker Shaukat Khan, who has been sitting at the Torkham crossing since the day it was closed.
In the latest attack, gunmen armed with a rocket attacked 29 tankers carrying NATO fuel supplies in southwestern Pakistan before dawn Saturday, setting them ablaze. Two responding police officers were wounded.
Local government official Abdul Mateen said the attack occurred in the area of Mithri, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. He said the attackers used guns and fired a rocket to destroy the tankers.
At least 10 gunmen were involved in the attack, police official Jamil Khan said."
Associated Press Writers Munir Ahmed and Nahal Toosi in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.