the Disillusioned kid: The Green Line
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Green Line

Understandably, much of the coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon has focussed on the human toll: the dead, dying, injured, displaced. There is, however, an environmental cost to Israel's actions which could have long-term repercussions.

The starkest and most serious example of this is the oil slick caused by by Israeli bombing of the Jiyyeh power station (which is a legitimate target in an anti-terrorist campaign for reasons beyond myself). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report that satellite imagery now shows the resulting slick covering 80 km of Lebanese coastline and having reached Syrian waters. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), who estimate that "some 10000 tonnes escaped and there is potential altogether for up to 35000 tonnes to be spilt," note that the slick has now affected around a third of Lebanon's coastline.

The Beeb's Richard Black underlines the severity of the incident, suggesting that the bombing may have resulted in as much oil entering the water as during the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. A group of local NGOs, declare that the slick was "definitely one of the worst environmental crises in Lebanese history." They express particular concern about the impact upon sea turtle nesting, particulalry endangered green turtles:
During the month of July, turtle eggs start to hatch and all baby turtles will need to reach deep waters as fast as possible. With the oil slick in their way baby turtles will have no chance of making it. Also, Blue Fin Tuna, which is a very important commercial species in the Mediterranean and which has been under severe stress from over-fishing, are present in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal water in this period of the year. The oil spill, of which part of it has settled on the sea floor, will threaten the blue fin tuna and other fish species spawning areas.
It goes without saying that this isn't just bad for the ecosystem, but also for those people (like fishermen) whose lives depend upon it.

Although Black notes that attempts to contain the spread are underway with "the UN and other international organisations... assisting the Lebanese government as it attempts to contain thousands of tonnes of oil." The inference I draw from the UNEP and IMO press releases, however, is that efforts are only at the most preliminary of stages. In any case, attempts to deal with the problem will inevitably be impacted upon by the ongoing Israeli assault. Both UNEP and the NGO press release cited above descibe an immediate ceasefire as vital to enable an effective clean-up operation.

Ghassan Makarem of the Samidou network suggests in an article for Socialist Worker (via) that the Lebanese population are becoming increasingly radicalised by the Israeli bombardment, claiming, "Young activists, environmental campaigners, human rights groups, religious organisations - they’re becoming radicalised by what’s happening." When I first read this, the inclusion of environmentalists seemed a little incongruous. (In part this is perhaps due to my unconscious acceptance of the assumption that environmentalism is a predominantly western concern, but that's a point for another post.) Given the environmental consequences of the assault, however, it shouldn't suprising, to say nothing of the anger unsurprisingly elicited when one finds oneself under attack by another country.

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