NATO's Toxic Legacy in Belgrade


| September-October 1999


The bombs no longer fall on Belgrade, but NATO's air campaign continues to devastate the Serbian capital with unprecedented environmental damage. As Milenko Vasovic writes in a June 30 dispatch for the Institute of War & Peace Reporting, attacks on major industrial plants in and around Belgrade have released huge quantities of toxic chemicals that have leached into the Danube River, poisoning the water and threatening farmland downstream. "A massive environmental disaster is on hand, with untold health problems to come," Vasovic writes.

Local and state authorities have banned fishing on parts of the Danube, and United Nations officials have released a report warning of miscarriages, birth defects, and diseases of the nervous system and liver as a result of the pollution, but Vasovic reports that the government is withholding information on the extent of the emergency. "The fate of this year's wheat crop was briefly discussed when the plants were first hit," he writes, "but since then there has been little official word beyond the statement that the situation is 'being monitored.' "

NATO officials have made little mention of the crisis, leaving it up to local and regional environmental groups to mobilize support. Thus far, calls for an international action plan to tackle the disaster have made little progress.

The Institute of War & Peace Reporting is at www.iwpr.net.