Friday, August 18, 2006
Lebanon Oil Spill spells Environmental Catastrophe
By Frubious Bandersnatch

As if the murder of 1,300 civilians and the wide scale destruction of homes and property were not enough, Lebanon's population will suffer for years to come from the effects of the massive oil spill caused by an Israeli attack on the Jiyyeh power station on July 14th. Due to the unrelenting violence over the last month, it has so far been impossible for remedial action to be taken.

The fuel oil contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals including benzene, a Class 1 carcinogen. Volatile, carcinogenic chemicals have dispersed into the air, in a 'toxic spray' that has drifted over Beirut, putting the health of its 2 million inhabitants at grave risk.

The oil slick is drifting north to Syria and there is concern that it may reach the coasts of Turkey and Cyprus, where it will also pose health risks to the civilian populations. The uncontained oil spill has also poisoned the marine environment, killing fish and birds and further adding to Lebanon's troubles by ruining the livelihoods of the fishermen.

Following the ceasefire that went into effect on Monday, crisis talks are taking place in the international community to start a clean up operation (see BBC news report below).

The clean-up operation will cost millions of dollars, which can be added to the $1.6 billion dollar Israeli war costs and the as yet unquantified reconstruction costs in Lebanon.

The cost in human lives from the toxic poisoning and cancer caused by the oil spill can be added to the 1,300 dead Lebanese civilians, uncounted dead Hezbollah fighters and the 154 dead Israelis (117 of them soldiers).

The consequences, if the ceasefire does not hold will not just be catastrophic politically, the "collateral damage" will not be limited to the direct effect of the missiles and bombs. It will also have catastrophic consequences for the east Mediterranean marine and coastal environment, the livelihoods of the people dependent upon it, and the health of the millions of people affected by the toxic chemicals released into the air, water and foodchain.

When it is explained to us once again by chuntering politicians why it was necessary to wreak so much destruction and kill so many people for the sake of releasing two captive soldiers who would sooner have been released through negotiation, who ultimately will still be released by negotiation we should recall the Jiyyeh power station and the oil spill.

Because it was not destroyed by mistake. The politicians will say again and again that they 'had no choice' but to go to war, that Hezbollah are terrorists who must be destroyed, that they are cowards who shelter behind civilians, that they are an intolerable security risk to the State of Israel. Even if all of these things were true, it would not justify the destruction of the eastern Mediterranean environment and the indiscriminate poisoning of the civilian populations of Lebanon and Syria.

War does not stop when the soldiers go home. Death does not stop when the bullets stop flying. The pain and suffering of millions does not end when the journalists move on.

The Israeli-Hizbollah war has been a tragedy from start to finish, punctuated by slaughter, war crimes and crass disregard for human life and the environment.

See images of the oil spill at

Crisis talks on Lebanon oil spill
Wednesday 16th August 2006, BBC News

Officials have warned of an increased risk to public health. An action plan to tackle the massive oil spill off Lebanon's coastline caused by the conflict is due to be discussed in Greece on Thursday.

Officials from the UN, the EU and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are meeting to agree a way to halt the spread in the Mediterranean. Oil spilled into the sea following Israel's bombing of a power station.

The slick now covers 170km (105 miles) of Lebanon's coastline and is spreading out to sea.
Environmentalists and health officials have warned that the spill poses a direct threat to marine life and could increase the risk of cancer among people living in the affected areas.
It could take up to 10 years for the affected coastline to recover, they say.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) and the IMO are jointly hosting Thursday's meeting in the Greek port town of Piraeus.

The objective is "to co-ordinate a common strategy to confront the pollution and to devise actions to prevent the possible expansion of the oil spill," they said in a statement.

Once agreed, the plan will be swiftly put into action, Luisa Colasimone of Unep's Mediterranean Action Plan said.

"A team of volunteers led by experts will clean up the coastline bit by bit. We now have the problem of it spreading out to sea, which will require technical expertise," she said.

Opec's humanitarian arm said on Wednesday it was providing $200,000 to help towards the clean-up effort.

Up to 15,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea after Israeli planes bombed the Jiyyeh power plant in mid-July.

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