Friday, July 28, 2006

environment pr - more damage

wael and i have been down to the beach again and again.. taking pictures.. writing..

today, a fisherman named Youssef told me about how his life is totally ruined now. his father is from the same village mine is from! and we have the same last name! what a coincidence. but, i don't think we are related. our village is in the south of Lebanon. we were both distressed talking about how we couldn't reach family. he told me that he heard the village was hit.

"but, we have no Hizuballah", i told him. he said "the Israelis don't care. they just want to blow everything and everyone up until Lebanon does not exist anymore.. then they will occupy us again. then they will take the South all for themselves.. they want our river. they want our water. the other day UN peacekeepers were blown up, then our village, who knows what is next?"

he told me that earlier this morning, he tried to save turtles that were trying to make it to the shore. he was not able to save a single one.

we spotted a crab and he made a dash for it. it was covered in black oil. totally smothered ..the poor thing. what does he have to do with any of this?!

i took some pics too. will post in a bit. right now my eyes can't focus on the screen anymore.. please read the press release Wael wrote... please pass it on.



War in Lebanon Brings About the Biggest Environmental Catastrophe in the History of the Country:
15,000 ton Oil Spill from Jiyyeh Power Plant Hits Most of the Lebanese Coast

By Wael Hmaidan

Beirut, July 27, 2006 - The escalating Israeli attack on Lebanon did not only kill its civilians and destroy its infrastructure, but it is also annihilating its environment. Last week a 15,000 ton oil spill resulted from the Israeli air raid on the Jiyyeh power plant South of Lebanon. The power plant has 6 fuel tanks. Four of them have burned completely, while the fifth one, which is also the main cause of the spill, is still burning. The Lebanese ministry of environment is worried that the sixth tank, which is underground and so far intact, is going to explode and increase the magnitude of the problem.

The oil slick appeared for the first time last week on the once beautiful beach of Ramlet El-Beida in Beirut, which is (or now used to be) the only public beach that Beiruties can enjoy in the Lebanese capital. Upon this finding, several environmental activists alerted the media on the spill, which in turn has mobilized the municipality of Beirut and the Ministry of Environment. After a few days of investigation it became obvious that more than 100km of the Lebanese coast, from Jiyyeh in the South to Chekka in the North has been hit by this oil spill.

Lebanese environmental NGOs have labeled the spill as the worst environmental crisis in Lebanon’s history. Just for the sake of comparison, in 2003 a 50 ton oil spill in the North by a cement company was a huge blow to the Lebanese coastal environment, and required a years clean up effort. The current spill is 300 times bigger, and there is a big possibility that more oil will go into the sea.

This spill will have a huge negative impact on the Mediterranean marine environment. The Lebanese coast is a very important site for fish spawning and sea turtle nesting, including the green turtle, which is an endangered species in the Mediterranean.

During the month of July, turtle eggs start to hatch and all baby turtles will need to reach deep waters as fast as possible. With the oil slick in their way baby turtles will have no chance of making it. Also, Blue Fin Tuna, which is a very important commercial species in the Mediterranean and which has been under severe stress from over-fishing, are present in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal water in this period of the year. The oil spill, of which part of it has settled on the sea floor, will threaten the blue fin tuna and other fish species spawning areas.

Another important impact of the spill is the effect on tourism in the future. The Lebanese coast is an important tourist destination, and after the war ends, Lebanon will need every source of income to rebuild its infrastructure. Now the beautiful Lebanese white beaches are covered with a black layer and the smell of fuel can be smelled a good distance in land, rendering them toxic and useless.

According to media and the Ministry of Environment said that this oil spill is bigger than what the local authority can handle and urgent help is needed from outside. The Ministry of Environment has organized a team to follow on this issue, and have requested help from the United Nations Environmental Program and the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean (REMPEC). The Kuwaiti Environment Authority has responded to the Lebanese government call and promised to send equipment and expertise to help in the clean up. Nevertheless, the constant Israeli air raids will make the clean up operation very difficult. Last week Israel targeted ambulances and aid trucks coming into the country. There is no guarantee that Israel will not target any equipment that approaches the beach, and clean up efforts might not be in place until a cease fire has been reached.

This spill will not be the only environmental impact of the attack on Lebanon. Other impacts include air pollution and chemical spills due to the targeting of industrial factories, fuel bunkers, and other flammable structures; the use of depleted uranium in Israeli bombs, and the huge waste and sanitary crisis resulting from the 750,000 refugees in Lebanon, which can lead to water pollution and the spread of diseases. A full assessment of the environmental impact of this war can only happen after the conflict is over and Lebanon should work with the international community on this issue.



Wael Hmaidan was the Greenpeace Campaigner for the Arab World for the past three years. Currently he is an environmental activist and environmental policy advisor for Lebanese and regional NGOs.
Contact information: Wael Hmaidan, mobile: +961-3-506313, email:
whmaidan@care2.com

3 Comments:

Blogger Rich said...

Over fishing, toxic dumping, tanker spills and now we can add "war spill collateral damage" to the list.

Wonderful "Stewards of the enviroment" aren't we.

It literally brings tears to my eyes to read about these things and to know that people that try to prevent and correct these problems are hamstrung by governments and big business every step of the way.

2:15 AM  
Blogger cristina said...

Hi Zena and Wael,
thank you for all you're doing and saying. You're very strong and I admire you. I translated the article written by Wael into Italian and I think it will be published on www.peacelink.it (an anti-war web site). Would you mind if I also include some of your photos about the pollution of the coasts? You can reply to me by writing to my email address: cristinapezzolesi@yahoo.it
(if you want or if you have time to reply to me, of course). Thank you very much.
Stay true! Keep recording the war damages. THANK YOU!

cristina

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Felix said...

Hi Zena,

At least some people haven't forgotten Lebanon. This weekend there will be demonstrations all over The Netherlands. The site I will mention here is only in Dutch but at least it gives you an idea. The actions are organized by different groups like The Hague Peace Platform, Green Party, Socialist an Social Democratic parties and others. We have also organized a daily vigil in front of the parliament building in The Hague, see www.stopoorlog.nl

all best wishes,

Felix from the Netherlands

8:22 PM  

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