Environmental Damage of Hezbollah-Israel War
2006-08-17
Friends of the Earth Urge UNEP to Assess the Environmental Damages of Hezbollah-Israel War

UN and EU should help NGOs start large-scale oil cleanup in Lebanon

Beirut / Brussels / Tel Aviv, 17 August 2006 - Friends of the Earth today appealed to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to send a team from its "Post-Conflict Branch" to Lebanon and Israel in order to undertake an independent assessment of the environmental impacts of the recent war between the Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel.

The appeal comes as high-ranking officials from UNEP, the EU and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meet today in Piraeus with representatives of Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey to discuss ways to deal with the war-related oil catastrophe along the Eastern Mediterranean.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, said, "The Post-Conflict Branch of the United Nations Environmental Programme should send a team to Israel and Lebanon as soon as possible. The environmental damage caused by the Hezbollah-Israel war and allegations currently made such as those concerning the Israeli use of ammunition with depleted uranium need to be either substantiated or rejected based on a scientific and impartial investigation".

"The purpose of such an assessment is to remove politics from the issue of environmental protection," Bromberg explained. "Documenting the consequences of war on the shared environment of Israel and Lebanon highlights the loss to both nations, and therefore an impartial UNEP report would contribute to confidence-building in the region."

Friends of the Earth also called on the EU and UNEP to assist the local NGOs that are keen to begin cleaning the oil-polluted beaches in Lebanon. At least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil was released into the sea when Israeli warplanes bombed the Jieh power plant south of Beirut in mid-July. Most of the Lebanese coast and many areas in Syria have been polluted. Cyprus and Turkey may also be hit if currents and winds are unfavourable.

Fouad Hamdan, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Local environmental groups in Lebanon are ready to send hundreds of volunteers to the beaches to start massive cleanup operations. But they need basic materials like boots, shovels and buckets. This is where the EU can help without bureaucratic hurdles so that cleanup work can finally move from the stage of planning to implementation."

"The more we wait, the more irreversible damage there will be along the Lebanese and Syrian coasts. The EU should swiftly send boats to the region that can suck oil from the water surface," Mr. Hamdan demanded. "Friends of the Earth Middle East and Friends of the Earth Europe are ready to contribute in any possible way," he added.

In addition to the oil catastrophe, Hezbollah missiles and Israeli bombing led to hundreds of fires destroying large forest areas in both countries. In Israel, more then half a million trees have been burnt in about 500 fires. Planning for sustainable reforestation should therefore now begin in Israel and Lebanon.

For more information pls. contact:

· Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, T +972 52 4532597, gidon@foeme.org (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)

· Mira Edelstein, Foreign Media Officer, Friends of the Earth Middle East, T +972 54 6392937, mira@foeme.org (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)

· Fouad Hamdan, Director Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels, Tel +32 2 5420183, Mob +32 485 656675, fouad.hamdan@foeeurope.org (spoken languages: Arabic, English, French and German)

· Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe, T +32 2 5426105, Mob +32 485 930515, rosemary.hall@foeeurope.org (spoken language: English)

INFO:
· UNEP's Post-Conflict Branch (PCoB): http://postconflict.unep.ch/index.php

· Friends of the Earth updates on the environmental impact of the Hezbollah-Israel war: http://www.foeeurope.org/activities/oil_spill_lebanon/index.htm