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Un Agencies Agree To Tackle Oil Spill

Un Agencies Agree On Clean-Up Plan To Tackle Oil Spill Polluting Lebanon And Syria

United Nations agencies backed a wide-ranging multimillion dollar action plan today to tackle up to 15,000 tonnes of fuel oil that spewed into the Mediterranean Sea, killing marine life and affecting around 150 kilometres of Lebanese and Syrian coastline, after a power utility was damaged last month during the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah.

The plan, which envisages an initial cost of around $64 million with possibly more funds needed next year, was agreed to at a meeting convened by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the UN Environment Programme (<"http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=484&ArticleID=5334&l=en">UNEP) in Athens, Greece, and which also involved countries in the region and the European Commission.

“Now the bombs have stopped and the guns have been silenced we have a chance to rapidly assess the true magnitude of the problem and finally mobilize the support for an oil clean-up and a restoration of the coastline,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director.

“The experts are on standby and today the international community have agreed on an action plan. I sincerely hope we have secured the financial backing to swiftly and comprehensively deliver on this promise to the Lebanese people, on this request to the UN for assistance from the Lebanese authorities,” he added.

The International Assistance Action Plan envisages three stages of response, namely priority short-term actions – including immediate helicopter aerial surveys to determine the extent of the pollution; medium-term actions – including a workforce of 300 people cleaning up to 30 sites simultaneously; and long-term actions to assess the lessons learned.

“I am delighted that we have been able to agree on this action plan which now sets the stage for the wide-ranging assistance the Lebanese and, to a lesser extent, the Syrian authorities so urgently need,” said Efthimios Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the IMO.

Several countries have offered clean-up and oil containment equipment and the Plan recommends that each donor providing equipment should also make available one or several specialists to train local staff in its use. It also highlights a “continually evolving scenario demanding a move, for example, from vacuum trucks and pumps to mechanical grabs as the oil becomes more viscous.

The Plan has been prepared by the Experts Working Group for Lebanon under the supervision of the UNEP-Mediterranean Action Plan’s Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) and the Minister of the Environment of Lebanon.

Ends

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