International specialists last month met in Piraeus to unveil a plan to limit the damage from a devastating oil spill caused after Israeli raids on a Lebanon power plant. The specialists warned that some of the 15,000 to 30,000 tons of escaped fuel oil could affect the shores of Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.
The above international specialists expressed concern that this threat could easily spread because of the “semi-closed” nature of the Mediterranean that tends to “trap in” pollution.
The long-term destructive consequences of the toxic fuel slick creeping northward through the Mediterranean are still unclear, said Silvano Focardi, an eco-toxicologist from the University of Siena.
“The widespread metabolic changes and the carcinogenic effects of this disaster will not be immediately evident to us but they cannot be underestimated,” he said.
Officials from the United Nations, the European Union and the International Maritime Organization promised technical and financial assistance and put the cost of the cleanup in the range of 50 million euros or more.
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner described the 50-million forecast as “a very conservative figure” to tackle a “major environmental emergency.
“With every day that passes without us being able to take remedial action on a significant scale, the cost of coping with the oil slick will increase,” Mr. Steiner said.
The international assistance action plan calls for immediate, helicopter-based aerial surveys to evaluate the damage. It also asks donors to provide in-kind assistance including pumps, hoses, skimmers and storage means.
Pia Bucella from the EU’s Environment Commission said that the agency would provide a 10-million-euro complement to the financing package to Lebanon in technical assistance for tackling the spill. OPEC has already pledged 156,000 euros ($200,000) to help clear the spill.
Italy’s Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio told the gathering, organized with the support of the Rome-based Information and Communication Center of the Barcelona Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean, “Everyone remembers the damage suffered by the Persian Gulf in the early 1990s – we should not let such things happen again.”
The minister appealed to other regional countries to join Italy in its initiative to clean up Lebanon and called for the implementation of existing treaties aimed at curbing pollution – such as the United Nations’ Barcelona Convention signed more than three decades ago by 21 Mediterranean countries – and the establishment of new pacts. “If we have a convention to protect our antiquities, then we should have one to avert serious environmental threats,” he said.