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UN: Environmental Impact Of Lebanon Oil Spill

UN Experts Arrive In Syria To Assess Environmental Impact Of Lebanon Oil Spill

New York, Aug 8 2006 2:00PM

Two United Nations experts arrived in Syria today to evaluate the consequences of the oil spill caused by Israel’s bombardment of a power plant in Lebanon that has already polluted over 140 kilometres of coastline, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which reported that no clean-up action has yet been possible.

“While I fully understand the complexity and political implications,” UN Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “many are appalled that, more than three weeks into this crisis, there has been no on-the-ground assessment to support the Lebanese Government, no moves possible towards a clean-up, and indeed few practical measures to contain the further spread of the slick.”

UNEP said the quantity of oil spilled in Lebanon is already comparable to the disaster caused in 1999 off the coast of France when the Erika tanker spilled an estimated 13,000 metric tonnes of oil into the Atlantic Ocean. The agency warned that if all the oil contained in the bombed power plant at Jiyyeh leaked into the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanese oil spill could well rival the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

“We are dealing with a very serious incident and any practical steps are still constrained by the continuation of hostilities. We are glad that two of our experts will now be able to provide advice from Damascus, even though much more is needed,” said Mr. Steiner.

UNEP is working with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Commission (EC) to create the conditions under which remedial action can be taken.

Marine species such as sea turtles and Bluefin tuna are feared to have been affected by the oil spill. According to the information received by UNEP’s Athens-based Mediterranean Action Plan, there is a spawning area for Bluefin tuna in the Eastern Mediterranean and the eggs and larvae may well have suffered the consequences of the oil pollution.


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