Adriatic (river Po, northwest)
By Benet Koleka
DURRES, Albania, June 9 (Reuters) - An inter-faith campaign to reduce pollution in the Adriatic will be formally launched on Monday, when a declaration urging countries bordering the sea to protect the environment will be signed in Venice and the Vatican.
In the past six days, organisers have cruised the coasts of Montenegro, Albania and Croatia to inspect some of the worst hazards and assess what can be done to eradicate them.
"We come from many nations, ethnicities, faiths and professional commitments to join with the people of the Adriatic in the interest of preserving the blessings of the natural world," Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said in Durres, Albania.
"We are responsible not only for our actions but for the consequences of our interventions," he told religious leaders, politicians and scientists aboard the craft Festos Palace.
Known as the Green Patriarch, Bartholomew is a key figure in the inter-faith campaign to use the influence of religious leaders to protect the environment.
Pope John Paul will sign the declaration on Monday in the Vatican, while Bartholomew will endorse it in Venice.
What will be known as the Venice Declaration will invite "men and women of goodwill" to look to their environmental ethics.
POLLUTION IN ALBANIA
The six-day cruise highlighted shocking pollution on the coast of Albania. A stone's throw from a primary school in Durres, the principal port, yellow heaps of sulphur lay inside the skeleton of an abandoned factory.
Lindane, a chemical banned in Europe for a decade, spread its pungent, pervasive smell over an unfenced area in which squatters have made their homes, using contaminated bricks.
From this site, a dangerous chromium residue, which is invisible, has found its way into the Adriatic, whose tainted fish bring the chromium back ashore to be sold on the market.
The whole area of 300 hectares was declared "one of the worst environmental hot spots in the Balkans" in a 2000 assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Experts said an ideal solution would be to build an insulated and impregnable box around the chemicals, along the lines of the sarcophagus that contains the ruined reactors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
"When it rains, all the Durres field water is drained in the Adriatic, including the waters that carry the pollutants, and this affects the fish," Albanian environmental specialist Romeo Eftimi said.
"But the people living here do not notice it because this kind of poisoning gives its effects long afterwards."
Albania's deputy environment minister Tatjana Hema said the state "was not strong enough" to prevent people from settling there during its first troubled decade of democracy.
"We are mobilising funds to rehabilitate this hot spot and another one and are working to secure $20 million from donors," she added. The Durres area would need half of that.
Experts said Albania would need help from its Adriatic neighbours Greece and Italy to orchestrate a major clean-up.
Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited.