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Άνω των 800 εκατ. δολ. αποζημίωση Ισραήλ για τον Λίβανο!

Άνω των 800 εκατ. δολ. αποζημίωση Ισραήλ για τον Λίβανο!
Βηρυτός, καλοκαίρι 2006

Βαριά είναι η «καμπάνα» που έπεσε από τα Ηνωμένα Έθνη στο
Ισραήλ, το οποίο καλείται να καταβάλει στον Λίβανο το διόλου
ευκαταφρόνητο ποσό των 850 εκατομμυρίων δολαρίων για πετρελαιοκηλίδα που
προκλήθηκε από αεροπορική επιδρομή στον πόλεμο του 2006 με τη
Χεζμπολάχ.

Σύμφωνα με το ειδησεογραφικό πρακτορείο Reuters, γενική Συνέλευση του Οργανισμού Ηνωμένων Εθνών ενέκρινε χθες σχετικό ψήφισμα, με ψήφους 170 υπέρ και 6 κατά, ενώ 3 χώρες απείχαν. Όχι είπαν οι ίδιοι οι Ισραηλινοί, οι Αμερικανοί, οι Καναδοί, οι Αυστραλέζοι, η Μικρονησία και οι νήσοι Μάρσαλ.

Στο σκεπτικό του ψηφίσματος αναφέρεται, ότι η «περιβαλλοντική καταστροφή» είχε ως αποτέλεσμα μια τεράστια πετρελαιοκηλίδα που κάλυψε το σύνολο της λιβανέζικης ακτογραμμής, φθάνοντας μέχρι τη συριακή, προκαλώντας σοβαρή μόλυνση.

Η ισραηλινή αντιπροσωπεία στον ΟΗΕ, με ανακοίνωσή της υποστηρίζει πως το ψήφισμα αυτό επιδεικνύει προκατάληψη σε βάρος της χώρας. Όταν είχε συμβεί η καταστροφή, είχε συνεργαστεί αμέσως με τον Οργανισμό και το United Nations Environment Programme, με σκοπό την αντιμετώπιση της καταστροφής.

mignatiou.com 

Environmental Impact of the 2006 Lebanon
War

Nasa image of spill, taken August 10, 2006. Oil slick in darker blue.

Israel’s offensive in Lebanon between July 12 and August 14 caused almost 1,200 fatalities and the destruction of infrastructure and property to the cost of at least US $ 2.5 billion.

But in addition to the loss of life and damage, the war caused several environmental problems that will have long-term consequences. This report will examine the following issues: * The 15,000 ton oil spill caused by the Israeli air strikes on the fuel tanks of Jiyeh power station. * The dust and smoke pollution caused by the bombardment. * Unexploded ordinance, primarily the estimated one million cluster bombs in south Lebanon. * Impact on farming communities. * Long-term implications for the environment and environmental policy. Oil Spill

On July 13 and 15 Israeli jets targeted the fuel tanks at the Jiyeh power station some thirty kilometers south of Beirut, resulting in the leak of between 10,000 to 15,000 tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean, the worst in the sea’s history. Due to the conflict situation in Lebanon the reaction to the spill was delayed and a clean-up campaign was not started until the ceasefire was declared, five weeks later.

By this time the oil had contaminated at least twenty-two areas over a stretch of 150 kilometers out of Lebanon’s 225 kilometer coastline. The spill also reached areas on the Syrian coastline and Turkish and Cypriot waters. No sites south of the power station were contaminated as the sea current at that time was flowing north. Because the clean-up and mitigation campaign was delayed much of the damage is now irreversible. More than two months later attempts by the Lebanese government and NGOs to clean up the oil have had little impact and so far only between one and three percent of the spill has been removed, while most of the oil has sunk to the sea floor.

Oil Spill in
Ramlet Al-Baida at the southern edge of Beirut.
The oil
spill contaminated 22 areas on Lebanon’s coastline and
will have a
long-term impact on the tourism and fishing sectors.
“The
scenery down there is terrifying”, says Mohammad Al-Sariji, the chairman of the
association of professional divers, who explored the seabed around the Jiyeh
power station in late August, “everything is covered by this black slick, and
it will threaten maritime life over years to come.”
While the sea along the coast appears deceptively blue
there are fears that the winter storms will wash the sedimented oil ashore, and
cause new pollution. But even if it stays on the sea bed, the fuel oil will
slowly degrade releasing toxic substances such as poly-nuclear aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAH) into the water. PAH causes cancer and accumulates in the
organs of fish and can result in the collapse of fish populations years after
the spill.
“All
these impurities and chemicals will go into the marine life, into the food
chain and they will continue to build up for years and years. It’s going to
affect seafood restaurants, fishermen, fisheries and tourism. It’s going to be
a hard and tough few years in terms of marine environment,” said Wael Hmaidan,
a coordinator with the Lebanese environmental NGO Greenline.
Endangered species that live in the seas around Lebanon,
such as the Blue Fin Tuna, Loggerhead Turtle and Monk Seals have been
threatened by the spill. The Palm Islands Nature Reserve off the coast of
Tripoli was contaminated by oil.
Additionally, the spill had a substantial impact on the
fishing and tourism sectors. Contamination of beach resorts and coastal towns
led to a reduction in visitors. The Lebanese ministry of tourism estimates the
tourism sector lost around US $ 3 billion because of the war. While it is
difficult to differentiate between losses attributable to the security
situation – foreign tourists canceling their trips to Lebanon, Lebanese staying
at home – and losses incurred by the pollution, the fact that around 60 percent
of the tourism industry in Lebanon depends on sea-related activities means that
even after the end of the hostilities (August 14) and the lifting of the
Israeli blockade (September 7) the tourism sector continued to incur
significant losses. “Beach owners practically lost around 90 percent of this
years income, in some cases up to half a million dollars”, said Hmaidan of
Greenline.
During the war, Lebanon’s 8,500 fishermen were prevented
from venturing out to sea due to the Israeli naval blockade, at a time that
represents the peak of the fishing season and typically generates more than one
third of their annual income. Additionally, some fishing ports such as the
Dhalia harbor in the Raouche area of Beirut were hit directly by the spill, as
a thick of layer of oil gathered on the sea surface coating the boats and
equipment of the 100 fisherman who use the port, making it very difficult for
them to fish once the blockade was lifted. To make things worse, the consumer
market for fish in Lebanon has virtually collapsed in the aftermath of the war,
as demand for fish has fallen due to health fears.
“Fishermen
are among the poorest people in Lebanon. Their monthly income is an average of
300,000 Lebanese Lira (US $ 200) and in the winter season there is no work for
almost two month. So for them, this is a tragedy. They can do nothing, they are
sitting at home and borrowing money from relatives,” said Mohammad Knio, the
chairman of the fishermen’s association in Ras Beirut.
The government has compensated fishermen US $ 200 each,
although many complain that this is inadequate considering that during the
summer they can earn as much as US $ 600 a month. The Lebanese NGO Bahr
al-Loubnan has attempted to aid some fishermen by employing them in the
clean-up operation.
In addition to the contamination of the sea the spill
also caused air pollution. Around twenty percent of the oil evaporated creating
a toxic spray that will affect the long-term health of as many as three million
people who live on Lebanon’s coast.
Dust and Smoke Pollution
According to the Lebanese government 30,000 homes, 149
bridges and 900 private sector buildings were destroyed in Israeli bombing
raids and this has resulted in the release of toxic dust and smoke pollution
into the environment.
The attack on the fuel tanks at Jiyeh power station
caused a fire that burnt for three weeks leaving a plume of smoke that could be
seen from 60 kilometers away. The bombing of the fuel tanks at Beirut airport
also resulted in a large fire that burnt for several days.
Air raids resulted in the release of toxic smoke and
fumes into the atmosphere.
“Chemical
traces and dust from buildings that were destroyed have heavily contaminated
the air and land, in addition, bombed out factories has caused chemical releases
that could potentially affect two million inhabitants in the country,”
said the environmental pressure group Greenpeace.
Smoke from burning factories released a cocktail of toxic
chemicals, such as poly-nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Attacks on
electricity substations resulted in the burning of parts that contained the
internationally banned carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which
when burned are liable to produce the highly toxic substance dioxin.
“These
are chemicals that are bio-accumulative and persistent so when you inhale them
they stay in your body and they do cause cancer. These chemicals are being
banned internationally, and if they are burned that way the results are
disastrous”, says Zeina al-Hajj of Greenpeace.
Unexploded Ordinance
Unexploded ordinance has been a long-standing problem in
Lebanon and in the south alone there are around 400,000 mines that date back to
the Israeli occupation of the area. However the recent conflict has increased
the level of unexploded ordinance. The most serious aspect of this issue is the
use of cluster munitions that were fired by Israel.
The UN estimates that around 1 million unexploded cluster
bombs failed to explode and now litter 590 sites in south Lebanon posing a
serious hazard to civilians who returned to the area after the war and are now
trying to rebuild their lives.
Cluster bombs are designed to explode immediately but as
many as 40% fail to detonate and are scattered indiscriminately in a wide area.
The bombs are about half the size of a soft-drinks can and they pose a risk to
farmers and workers who are trying to clear the rubble from residential areas
that were damaged during the war as well as children who are playing in the
affected areas.
The UN estimates that around one million unexploded
cluster bombs now litter South Lebanon
At least 21 people have been killed by cluster bombs
since the ceasefire and more than 100 have been injured. “The artificial
limb technicians are going to have their work cut out for them in the weeks and
months to come,” Dr Ali Hajj Ali, the director of a hospital in the
southern town of Nabatiyeh, was quoted as saying by the website Middle East
Online.
International observers especially criticized the intense
use of cluster bombs during the final days of the conflict, when a cease-fire
was clearly imminent. “What’s shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the
cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we
knew there would be a resolution,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland in late August.
Some farmers in the area have become desperate and are
venturing into the fields in order to harvest their crops regardless of the
threat that cluster bombs pose. The mine removal teams that have been deployed
by the Lebanese army, UN and private companies are unable to cope with the
number of bombs and in some cases locals are attempting to remove the bombs
themselves. “They take the risk. Either they enter the fields and try not to
step on a cluster or they remove them themselves,” said Dalya Farran,
spokesperson for the UN Mine Action Coordination Center.
It is estimated that clearing the cluster bombs will take
at least a year although the task will become much harder as winter rains and the
growth of grass and foliage in spring will conceal the bombs. Although many
fields will still be contaminated during the springtime planting period, many
farmers will most likely work their land despite the risks.
Apart from cluster bombs, there are also problems with
other unexploded ordinance such as tank, artillery and mortar shells. On a
daily basis during the conflict Hezbollah fired on average around 100 rockets
into Israel and Israel fired around 2,600 missiles, rockets and bombs into
south Lebanon. In south Lebanon more than 10 percent of this ordinance did not
detonate and although the risk is not as severe as that of the cluster bombs
the presence of these unexploded weapons poses a threat for civilians.
Impact on Farming Communities
Farmers were hit hard during the conflict and the
Lebanese government estimates that 85 percent of the country’s 195,000 farmers
will lose all or some of their harvest at a cost of between $135 and $185
million.
In the south and the Bekaa valley, Lebanon’s two biggest
agriculture regions, the bombing made it too dangerous to either harvest the
crops or to transport them to market, and potatoes, tobacco, melons and citrus
fruit were left to rot in the fields. The killing of 33 laborers who were
harvesting peaches in an Israeli air strike in Al-Qaa in the northern Bekaa
valley was an example of the risks that farmers faced. Farmers were also unable
to access their livestock or buy animal feed and the Lebanese government
estimates that one million poultry, 25,000 goats and sheep and 4,000 cattle
died. The effect was clearly felt during and in the aftermath of the war as
supermarket shelves emptied and prices for vegetables and perishables soared.
Throughout Lebanon, up to thirty-five percent of the
population is directly or indirectly dependent on farming, mostly on a small
and barely sustainable scale: 75 percent are working one hectare or less, with
little or no capital reserves to absorb the losses. Many of these small farmers
are now in a financial quandary, facing debt or even bankruptcy.
“In
our agriculture, you have one harvest a year and that’s it. So what happens is
that the farmers borrow money to pay for the cost of production, and they wait
for the harvest to pay back the debt. But now, they will not only have a loss
of revenue, but many of them will also go deeply into debt,” said Kanj Hamade,
an agriculture student from Hermel, a mainly agricultural town in the northern
Bekaa valley that was hit repeatedly by Israeli attacks.
Many orchards and olive trees were destroyed due to fires
started by the Israeli bombardment. The exact number remains to be established,
and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is currently conducting a
study of damaged trees and farmland, however it appears certain that thousands
of trees were destroyed. In one farm near Nabatiyeh alone, more than 1,000
trees were destroyed over a surface of 46 hectares, and so far 1,092 cluster
bombs have been removed from the farm. The landowner said farmers and workers
were not entering the fields due to the risks of unexploded ordinance. “In my
area I took the biggest toll, but there are definitely farmers elsewhere who
are in even a much worse situation,” said the landowner, Adnan Khayat.
Although the Lebanese government has begun to take
details of losses in order to compensate farmers, there is little optimism
among farmers that they will be given the full value of what they lost.
Additionally, the impact of the shelling was not always immediately apparent,
and trees that appeared unscathed at the end of the war continued to die in the
following weeks. “When the damage was assessed at my farm, they registered some
350 destroyed trees, but in the weeks since another 700 turned yellow and died”,
said Mr. Khayyat.
Long-term Implications for the Environment and
Environmental Policy
Lebanon has a poor record when it comes to environmental
issues and the divided nature of Lebanese politics means that the environment
is not a policy priority. Problems such as uncontrolled quarrying, poor waste
disposal techniques and the dumping of raw sewage into the sea have not been
properly addressed.
Now, in the post-war period these issues are only likely
to slip further down the agenda and the reconstruction of infrastructure and
property destroyed during the war will likely eat into any funds that could be
used for environmental projects.
Many rural communities in south Lebanon have been
traumatized and in some villages, such as Bint Jbeil and Khiyam, the majority
of houses have been destroyed or severely damaged. As a result of the
destruction of around 30,000 homes, the Lebanese government estimates that as
many as 200,000 people are now homeless and have sought alternative
accommodation with relatives or are living in tents or the wreckage of their
home. Although this is an adequate solution for the time being, life for the
homeless will become tough in winter. It is likely that their need for shelter
will push them to cut trees for both fuel and shelter. In the long-term the
reconstruction process will also increase demand for stone meaning that the
problem of uncontrolled quarrying will likely be exacerbated.
The trauma suffered by communities in the south, such as
this one in Khiyam in the Western Bekaa Valley, is likely to have a knock-on
effect on the environment.
“When
people need to rebuild they are looking for survival. They don’t think long
term they want to know how they are going to survive this winter”, said Assad
Serhal, the head of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon.
 “There is no water,
electricity is off, and their houses are destroyed. So people are going to be
looking for basics whatever they can get their hands on, whether it’s fire for
cooking or fuel for the winter or sand from the beaches to build a house or a
rock quarry. All of this is going to come out of nature and I don’t think the
government or anybody is prepared to deal with the issue. The tragedy is so
overwhelming on people that nobody would dare tell tem that they can’t cut this
tree or take this sand,” Serhal said.
Sources
Interview with Wael Hmaidan, a coordinator with the
Lebanese environmental NGO Green Line.
Interview with Zeina al-Hajj, Greenpeace coordinator.
Interview with Assad Serhal, head of the Society for the
Protection of Nature in Lebanon.
Interview with Kanj Hamade, agriculture student.
Oxfam, UN, The World Conversation Union

Heinrich Boll Foundation
http://www.metransparent.com/old/texts/environmental_impact_of_the_2006_lebanon_war.htm 

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