Israel blockade on Lebanon prevents oil spill clean-up

Posted by peoplesgeography on September 5th, 2006

by Salim Yassine Mon Sep 4, 12:49 PM ET

BEIRUT (AFP) – The Israeli blockade on Lebanon is preventing the widescale intervention needed to clean a massive oil slick caused by the Jewish state’s bombardment of a power station, Greenpeace has said.

“You have to be able to overfly Lebanese waters to pinpoint surface slicks and fuel oil deposits deeper down, as well as intervention by skimmers (cleaning boats) — and that is not possible while the blockade continues,” Greenpeace Lebanon’s spokesman Omar al-Naim told AFP Monday.”The use of pumps is also necessary, which means being able to operate freely on the surface of the sea, which is impossible because of the blockade,” Naim said.

“The more time that passes, the more the slicks are dispersed by the wind and the currents,” he added.

Naim said that unless the slicks are dealt with while they are still at sea, “the coastline will inevitably be soiled again, even if it has already been cleaned up”.

Syrian officials said on Sunday that a new oil slick had reached its shores after initial pollution at the end of July, caused by Israeli air strikes in the middle of the month against the Jiyeh power station 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Beirut.

Two attacks by Israeli warplanes hit fuel oil storage tanks at the coastal generating station, spilling up to 15,000 tonnes of fuel into the Mediterranean and fouling three quarters of Lebanon’s 200-kilometre (124-mile) coast.

The air assaults came after Israel launched its blistering 34-day offensive on July 12 against Lebanese Shiite fighters from Hezbollah, and subsequent fires at Jiyeh burned for nearly two weeks.

The latest slick washed up on Syrian shores between the Lebanese frontier and Tartus, 260 km (161 miles) northwest of Damascus, Hassan Murjan, the head of environment services in Tartus, told AFP on Sunday.

“As long as the Lebanese coastline has not been cleaned there will be a risk for Syria,” Murjan said. “We’re waiting for the clean-up in Lebanon so we can get started again.”

According to Rick Steiner, an American expert sent to the region by the World Conservation Union at the request of the Lebanese non-governmental group Greenline, “the longer pollution lasts, the more dangerous it becomes”.

At a meeting last month in the Greek port of Pireaus, organised by the UN Environment Programme, a dozen countries promised logistical aid to battle the oil spill, considered the worst environmental catastrophe ever to befall Lebanon.

Greenpeace Mediterranean said that cleaning the massive spill could take up to a year.

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