Jiyeh power station oil leak

Jiyeh Power Station oil spill

The Jiyeh Power Station oil spill is an ongoing environmental disaster, caused by the release of heavy fuel oil into the eastern Mediterranean after storage tanks at the thermal power station in Jiyeh, Lebanon, 30 km (19 mi) south of Beirut, were bombed by the Israeli Airforce on July 14 and July 15, 2006 during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The plant's damaged tanks leaked 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oil into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, comparable in size to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. A 10 km wide oil slick covers 170 km of coastline, was threatening Turkey and Cyprus. The slick was reportedly killing fish, threatening the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle, as well as potentially increasing the risk of cancer. It may take at least 10 years to recover from this spill.

According to Lebanon's Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf, Israeli jets deterred firemen from putting out the fire at the storage units, which continued for 10 days, and the Israeli Navy blockade has stopped Lebanese and foreign officials from surveying the damage of the spill.

Effects

The spill affected one-third of Lebanon's coastline. Beaches and rocks were covered in a black sludge up to Byblos, north of Beirut and extended in to the southern parts of Syria. The slick was reportedly killing fish, and threatening the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle.

  • On 31 July the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) expressed its "grave concern" about oil pollution in Lebanese coastal waters. The oil slick was (at the time) reported to cover one third of the coastline (10 miles) and it was considered possible that the eventual slick could reach 35,000 tons of oil. Malta-based Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre (REMPEC) for the Mediterranean, which is advising the Lebanese government, reportedly said "a very small quantity of tar balls" also reached the Syrian coast in the north.

Lebanese Environment Minister statement

"Up until now 20,000 to 30,000 tons heavy fuel oil have spilled out into the sea," " "Until now, the worst ecological disasters have taken place in the oceans and it's the first time that an oil spill has happened outside the open sea," "We can have no illusions." "If nothing is done, not only will currents flowing towards the north mean that one third of Lebanon's coastline be hit, but also Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Greece and even Israel," "The fauna and the Mediterranean ecosystem risk suffering badly and certain species are threatened with extinction," "I have appealed to Britain, Italy, Spain, the United States, all the countries which have already suffered oil slicks to ask for technical assistance as we cannot act on our own," Lebanese Environment Minister Yacub Sarraf said.

International response

  • - They have sent 40 tons of material to thicken the oil and oil absorbing products.
  • - Damage assessment and cleanup operations were delayed by four weeks while Israel continued its bombing campaign.

United Nations

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution by 170 votes to 6 (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, and United States voting against) calling upon Israel to assume responsibility for compensation for the costs of repairing the environmental damage and restoration of the marine environment.

The United States explained its opposition to the resolution in terms of its one-sided and inappropriate nature, Canada felt that "the General Assembly was not the appropriate forum to address questions of legal liability or compensation of the cost of repairing environmental damage", and Israel objected to the omission of any mention of "the entire reason for the conflict - namely, that on 12 July 2006 Hizbollah terrorists had crossed an internationally recognized border into Israel and kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers", as well as the lack of concern for the "half a million trees and 52,000 dunams of forest that had burnt down in Israel as a result of fires caused by Hizbollah rockets; the 25 Israeli cement and asbestos buildings that had been damaged, polluting an area of 20,000 square metres; or the direct hit by a Katyusha rocket on a sludge-thickening plant in Tzafat."

The estimate by the UN of the cost of the oil spill in terms of harm to the Lebanese economy and cleaning up operations is $203million. Israel has refused to answer any request for compensation.

Following this there was a precise rerun of the discussion and vote in December 2007, with the Australia, Canada, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and the United States coming out again against a General Assembly Resolution requesting Israel to take responsibility. In its defence the ambassador from Israel said the failure to mention the environmental catastrophes in Israel (half a million trees on fire), as well as the entire cause of the conflict (Hizbollah crossing the southern border of Lebanon to kidnap Israeli soldiers) proved that the resolution was an act of political demonization. Many recent oil slicks had caused far greater environmental damage, yet none had warranted a United Nations resolution.

Media awareness

Aside from news reports at the time suggesting the event was as serious as the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, there has been very little coverage since.

A documentary by Hady Zaccak called The Oil Spill in Lebanon won first prize at the European and Mediterranean Film Festival on the TV of the Sea

External links

References

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