Saturday, August 05, 2006

15,000 Tons of Fuel lay siege on the Lebanese coast

Asharq Al Awsat (pan-Arab newspaper), August 4
translated by MideastWire

"Israel committed a new massacre in Lebanon to add to its impressive record in this area. The victim this time is the marine environment. Although it is not possible to determine the actual magnitude of the disaster because of the blockade, it is sufficient to look at the preliminary map prepared by a group of activists from Lebanese environmental associations after a tour of the Lebanese coast to show the environmental scar. It appears that the disaster that has already been touched upon by Asharq Al-Awsat is much larger than expected. The initial result of damage after a survey conducted by the Ministry of Environment shows that the contamination extends to 140 kilometers along the coast and no less than 15 meters width on land. The amounts deposited in the deep sea cannot be estimated at present due to the security situation, as reflected in the statement of the ministry.

"Wael Hmeidan responsible for a group of activists and member of environmental Lebanese association 'Green Line' said to Asharq Al-Awsat that 'if crying cures, I would have directed a global call for the Mediterranean and if not for the daily massacres committed by Israel against Lebanese civilians and the continued shelling, the maritime disaster would have been a worldwide issue'.

"He continued that 'the Israeli battleships hit the Jiyeh thermal power station (on the southern coast) which is still burning since three weeks ago and leaking about 70 thousand cubic meters of oil to the Lebanese territorial waters, thereby causing the greatest environmental damage in the history of the eastern basin of the Mediterranean sea. The wind is also carrying the smoke as far north as Beirut and elsewhere which may cause cancer and pulmonary diseases.What makes the disaster worse is the inability to cope with the problem and the rush to its treatment because of the Israeli naval blockade which is preventing the specialized groups to go to the sea to locate the damage and size. Every minute of delay is leading to the leakage of oil into the deep sea and sand, therefore widening the circle of the contaminated spots'.

"Hmeidan confirmed the presence of 15 thousand tons of oil in the water. It is catastrophes double the size of the disaster that took place in the year 1989 in the State of Alaska, when the American carriers Exxon Valdez had an accident which caused spilling of about 35 tons of oil to water. This is because the company responsible grappled with the problem swiftly and surrounded the plots of oil and vacuumed them out. . In Lebanon, we still are not able to move and the damage caused exceeds the description. It is spreading north towards Syria and then Greece, Cyprus and south Turkey because of the wind from the south. If the problem remains untreated until the course of the winter, the wind coming from the north will cause the pollution to be transported towards Israel'.

"Hmeidan expressed his shock for the Israeli assaults on the Jiyeh factory. He said 'what is the reason for hitting the factory and polluting the sea when the damage will go to Israel too? If they wanted to cut off electricity to Hezbollah, this is in the interest of the party who prefers darkness to move about'. He revealed that environmental associations are preparing a lawsuit against Israel to charge it with the consequences of this disaster. The cost of its treatment is about $250 million American dollars which includes the damage to tourism and fishing. This cost is expected to rise if we do not start treatment….

"Hmeidan spoke about the impact of the disaster on the wealth of marine fauna and flora 'which will continue for six years if treatment is started now'. He said that 'The oil has reached the sand because of the waves on the beach that are causing pollution. This is supposed to be collected and thrown in particular burial pits that are not available in Lebanon. The oil that has reached the rocks too which requires the addition of chemicals to clear it and when the liquid reaches water, it will need to be cleaned out again with specialized machines. It will first spread on the water surface then will begin to leak to the bottom which will prevent in the first phase the access of oxygen to marine animals that will die. Then in a second phase, the fish's eggs that are at the bottom will die'.

Hmeidan added that 'this is the sea turtles breeding season, they lay their eggs on the beach and leave it to sink to the bottoms. But small turtle will not be able to move to the bottom because of the oil barrier on the surface of water. If they manage to cross the barrier, the oil will stick on them and water cannot remove it. Hmeidan warned of leaving the situation as it is without addressing the fact that nature alone is unable to remove the damage and re-balance its system. He noted that the cleaning operations will also lead to contamination because it imposes the use of drugs or chemical burns to remove frozen oil on the rocks. He noted that Jordan, Kuwait, France and the European Union promised assistance, hoping to benefit from the experience of Kuwait as they have suffered similar problems in the second Gulf War'