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News Blaze:UN Agencies Agree on Clean-Up Plan to Tackle Oil Spill Polluting



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News Blaze:UN Agencies Agree on Clean-Up Plan to Tackle Oil Spill Polluting


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.

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Evening Echo: Pledge to help Lebanon clear oil spill

17/08/2006 - 5:56:27 PM

United Nations and international maritime agencies promised to give Lebanon immediate technical advice today to help clean up an oil slick, and warned the operation could cost more than €50m.

The oil slick has been described as Lebanon’s worst-ever environmental disaster and experts say it could take up to a year to clean up. The accident occurred during Israel’s month-long bombardment, polluting more than 85 miles of shoreline, including parts of Syria, according to UN estimates.

At a meeting near Athens, senior officials from the International Maritime Organisation, the UN Environment Programme, and the European Union said they would appeal for international financial assistance to contain the Mediterranean spill, which remains a potential threat to nearby Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.

The slick was caused by the bombing of a power station near Beirut July 13-15, when about 15,000 tons of oil spilled into the sea – threatening marine life and the local fishing and tourism industries.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the clean-up had been seriously delayed by Israeli airstrikes which lasted for four weeks after the power station was bombed.

Aerial photographs of the spill – impossible to take during the fighting - were still required to assess the extent of the disaster, he said.

Hostilities involving the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants ended on August 14. Since then experts have travel to the region to help draw up a response plan.

“This is a ... major environmental emergency,” Steiner said. “I’m not aware of any incident with such a four-week delay ... there is an utter urgency for the (U.N.) action plan to be implemented as soon as possible.”

Steiner appealed for governments to provide a list of equipment including skimmer boats, floating containment barriers, pumps and storage trucks.

The operation will be co-ordinated by the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre.

The IMO’s role is considered unprecedented because the spill was land-based. However, Efthimios Mitropoulos, the organisation’s secretary-general, said “extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures .. we cannot turn a blind eye.”

UNEP Co-ordinator Paul Mifsud said help was immediately offered by the 21 signatories of the Barcelona Convention, which contains protocols regarding pollution of the Mediterranean marine environment. Nine Mediterranean countries as well as the European Commission have already offered assistance.

“Oil is a contaminant and is toxic,” he said. “Oil, water and human livelihood do not mix well.”

Also present at the meeting were Greek Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and government officials from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus.


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Le Figaro: Des drames écologiques menacent le Liban et les Philippines


lefigaro.fr (avec AFP).

 Publié le 16 août 2006

Actualisé le 17 août 2006 : 20h22
La France a envoyé jeudi du matériel anti-pollution vers les côtes libanaises, victimes d’une marée noire, comparable à celle de l’Erika qui avait frappé l’Hexagone en 1999. Touchées par un drame similaire, les Philippines attendent toujours l’aide internationale.

 

Agir, et vite. Jeudi, des experts internationaux et des ministres de Méditerranée orientale réunis à Athènes, ont répété l’urgence d'une mobilisation internationale pour faire face à la marée noire dans la région provoquée par le conflit au Liban. Entre 10.000 et 15.000 tonnes de pétrole se sont répandues en mer après le bombardement israélien à la mi-juillet des cuves de la centrale électrique libanaise de Jiyé, à 30 km au sud de Beyrouth. Une masse équivalente à celle du naufrage de l’Erika, qui avait souillé la côte atlantique française en 1999. Un tiers des côtes libanaises sont déjà touchées. «Il s'agit sans aucun doute du pire désastre écologique en Méditerranée», estime l’association écologique libanaise Ligne verte. «Il faudra au moins six ans avant un retour à la normale».



 

 

Selon Achim Steiner, le directeur exécutif du Programme des Nations unies pour l'Environnement (PNUE), il faut d’abord, «identifier l'ampleur de la pollution», puis « mettre en place les mécanismes de coordination et de soutien au Liban en matière d'équipements et d'experts, et surtout en matière financière».



 

Le plan d'action examiné au cours de cette réunion coûterait au minimum 50 millions d'euros. La Commission européenne examine l'octroi de 10 millions d'euros. L'Organisation des pays producteurs de pétrole fournira, elle, une contribution financière immédiate de 200.000 dollars.

 

La France a déjà réagi. Deux conteneurs chargés de six tonnes de matériels anti-pollution ont quitté jeudi le centre Polmar de Brest. Ce chargement, qui comprend notamment 500 mètres de barrage, des nettoyeurs haute-pression, des produits absorbants et du matériel de pompage, sera regroupé avec d'autres matériels anti-pollution que la France enverra au Liban.



 

Pire marée noire de son histoire

 

En revanche, les Philippines, frappées par la pire marée noire de leur histoire, attendent toujours de l’aide. Ses appels directs au Japon et à l'Indonésie sont pour l’instant restés sans réponse. Le gouvernement philippin va donc demander de l’aide aux organisations internationales «pour accélérer les efforts de nettoyage de la zone», d’après le porte-parole de la présidente Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Faute d'assistance étrangère, les ressources côtières de l'une des provinces du centre du pays seront ravagées, a averti jeudi le porte-parole de la garde-côtière de l’archipel.



 

Deux experts britanniques de la Fédération internationale des pollutions pétrolières sont arrivés sur place jeudi pour évaluer la situation. Ils «feront le point sur la pollution, le nettoyage devant être fait, ainsi que les recommandations à faire», a expliqué Clemente Cancio, président de la société Sunshine Maritime Development, propriétaire du Solar I, le super-tanker qui a coulé vendredi dernier au large de l’île de Guimaras. Le Solar I aurait déjà perdu 200 tonnes sur les 800 qu’il transportait, souillant plus de 200 km de côtes. Une zone, où plus d’un tiers des 150.000 habitants vivent de la mer.

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