United Nations Team Begins Country-Wide Study of Potential Environmental Hot Spots
Beirut/Nairobi, 2 October 2006 - An international team of experts will tomorrow begin an assessment of the environmental damage in Lebanon caused by the recent conflict.
The team, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and working in close cooperation with the Lebanese authorities, will be visiting and sampling sites thought to present potential risks to human health, wildlife and the wider environment.
These include the Jiyyeh thermal power plant 28km south of Beirut which discharged an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the Mediterranean after being hit in mid July; Beirut International Airport, where fuel tanks were set alight as a result of repeated bombing; and the Maliban glass factory in the Bekaa Valley destroyed by an air raid on 19 July.
Other sites expected to be assessed by the UNEP-led team and national experts include some of the estimated 22 country-wide petrol stations that were damaged or destroyed and locations where there is thought to be unexploded ordnance.
The team also plans to assess pollution risks at several damaged drinking water, sewage treatment and hospital facility sites.
Damaged power transformers, collapsed buildings and ruptured oil lines that may have leaked or discharged hazardous substances and materials—such as asbestos and chlorinated compounds – are also earmarked for assessment.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “There is an urgent need to assess the environmental legacy of the recent conflict and put in place a comprehensive clean-up of polluted and health-hazardous sites”.
“Work is on-going to deal with the oil spill on the Lebanese coast. We must now look at the wider impacts as they relate to issues such as underground and surface water supplies, coastal contamination and the health and fertility of the land,” he said.
“This post conflict assessment is being undertaken in response to a request by the Lebanese government to assist in the development of a framework for guiding international reconstruction efforts,” said Mr Steiner.
“I must thank the governments of Norway and Switzerland for helping to fund the assessment which should take just under a month. We expect to have a comprehensive report on sites and locations in need of decontamination and clean up before the end of the year. Once the hard facts are known and the hot spots pin pointed, I would urge the international community to back the findings as part of the reconstruction effort for Lebanon and its people,” he added.
Notes to Editors
The decision to undertake a post conflict assessment follows a request in early August from the Lebanese Ministry of the Environment.
UNEP and its international team of experts will be liaising and working closely with the Lebanese authorities; the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research; other United Nations agencies and organizations; the World Bank; IUCN-the World Conservation Union; the American University of Beirut; and non governmental organizations.
The potential list of sites to be visited and sampled is based on research by UNEP supplemented by remote sensing data and recommendations made by Yacoub Sarraf, the Environment Minister of Lebanon.
The main areas of interest cover solid wastes; contamination at industrial sites including airports; coastal and marine contamination; potential impacts on ground water; rivers and lakes and springs; effects on waste water management; asbestos contamination linked with collapsed buildings; air pollution and possible impacts on soils and vegetation; and issues related to the use of weapons including possible use of depleted uranium.
UNEP’s Post-Conflict Branch has extensive experience in this field, having carried out similar work in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Iraq, and Liberia.
Information on the Branch’s work can be found at http://postconflict.unep.ch
For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Media Officer, on Tel: 254 20 7623088, Mobile: 254 720 173968, E-mail: email@example.com
Or Dr Habib Elhabr, Director of the UNEP Regional Office for West Asia, on Tel: 973 1781 2777, Mobile: 973 3944 3225, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
UNEP News Release 2006/46