2 August 2006 An oil spill caused by Israel’s bombardment of a power plant in Lebanon that has already polluted over 80 kilometres of the country’s coastline has reached the Syrian coastline and is spreading further north, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today, calling for action to stem the damage.
“A coordinated response must urgently be allowed to proceed, so that we can limit the immediate environmental damage as well as the longer term implications for the economy and the Lebanese people,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
He said initial satellite imagery “unfortunately” confirms the significant magnitude of the spreading oil spill three weeks after it was caused by Israel’s destruction of the Jiyyeh power utility 30 kilometres south of Beirut. The oil slick has entered Syrian waters and has already contaminated approximately 10 kilometres of coastline north of the borders between Syria and Lebanon, according to satellite imagery from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.
Paul Mifsud, Coordinator of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP-MAP), echoed Mr. Steiner’s call for quick action. “Hostilities must cease to guarantee immediate safe access to the affected area,” he said.
In a letter addressed to UNEP-MAP in Athens today, the Syrian Minister of Local Administration and Environment, Helal Al-Atrash, asked the agency to send “professional companies to control the spilled oil on the shoreline and territorial waters” and “experts for the assessment of environmental degradation costs.”
The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), one of UNEP-MAP’s Regional Activity Centres, has requested the Government of Cyprus to run a spill forecast model.