Lebanon Asks UNEP to Assess Environmental Damage of War
2006-09-25
LEBANON ASKS UNEP TO ASSESS ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE OF HIZBOLLAH-ISRAEL WAR - Friends of the Earth urge Israel to follow suit

Beirut / Brussels / Tel Aviv, 25th September 2006
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has informed Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) that it will send a team from its "Post-Conflict Branch" to Lebanon to assess the environmental impacts of the recent war between the Lebanese Hizbullah group and Israel.

In a letter to both organisations, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said UNEP had received a formal request from Lebanon to undertake such an assessment - but not from Israel. FoEME and FoEE, who had requested in the middle of August that such an assessment take place, today welcomed the positive reaction from Lebanon and UNEP, and they urged Israel to follow suit.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of FoEME, said in Tel Aviv, “We appeal to the Israeli government to officially ask UNEP to send a team from its Post-Conflict Branch to northern Israel and assess the environmental damage there, as they are set to do in Lebanon. The environmental impacts of the Hizbullah-Israel war in July and August need to be investigated by a professional and independent team.”

FoEE director Fouad Hamdan said in Brussels, "An independent investigation of the environmental impact of the war in Lebanon will remove emotions and politics from the issue of environmental protection."

"But the environmental impact assessment should happen in Israel as well as Lebanon. Documenting the consequences of war on their shared marine environment would highlight the loss to both nations. This would hopefully dissuade Hizbollah and Israel from recommencing the fighting, which many fear could happen any day since the political causes of the war are still unresolved", Hamdan added.

At least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil was released into the Mediterranean 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. In winter when currents change direction, it is likely that the coast of Israel will be polluted too.

In addition to the oil catastrophe, Hizbollah 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. FoEME and FoEE have urged that planning for sustainable reforestation should therefore now begin in Israel and Lebanon.

There are also allegations that some Israeli ammunition fired in southern Lebanon was made with depleted uranium, the use of which is suspected to raise the incidence of cancer in civilian populations.


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

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

· FoEME: http://www.foeme.org/