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MAP calls for regional response to oil spills along Lebanese coastline  

UNEP/MAP, the Mediterranean Action Plan, has received an urgent request of assistance from the Ministry of Environment of Lebanon to help with the oil spills along the country’s coastlines.

In a letter sent to the Athens office of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), Mr. Yacoub Riad Sarraf, Minister of Environment of Lebanon, said that assistance is urgently needed for treating oil wastes that have polluted both the sandy and rocky beaches as well as many tourists resorts and hotels in Lebanon over the past days.

According to the data provided to MAP by the Ministry of Environment of Lebanon, the oil spill originates mainly from storage tanks of a power plant in Jeih area, 30 km south of Beirut, and contaminated at least some 70–80 km north of the source of pollution. The communication also indicates that some oil might have originated from sources at sea.

“Since Lebanon does not have sufficient means to respond on its own to the massive amounts of oil spills, the Ministry of Environment of Lebanon requested MAP and REMPEC(1) for any possible assistance in dealing with the spill and its consequences”, said Mr. Paul Mifsud, Coordinator of MAP.

MAP/REMPEC has requested Mediterranean countries, Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (2), to indicate whether the Governments in the region could offer any assistance to the Government of Lebanon once the situation permits the beginning of clean-up operations (3). A number of countries parties to the Barcelona Convention have already responded positively to the request.

“The extent of the pollution and the type of pollutant would call for a complex and long shoreline clean-up operation. However international assistance could be considered only once the hostilities in the area have ceased”, said Mr. Mifsud.

Visual evidence of the heavy pollution of rocky and sandy beaches in the area, as well as contamination of marinas and boats, was provided to both MAP and REMPEC by the Lebanese authorities.

Notes to Editors:

(1) The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) is one of the MAP Regional Activities Centres and is based in Malta.

REMPEC helps Mediterranean coastal states build up their national prevention and response capabilities to be prepared for major marine pollution incidents.

(2) The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean – also known as the Barcelona Convention - is the legal framework for the implementation of the Mediterranean Action Plan with a Secretariat based in Athens.

The Barcelona Convention was adopted by the Mediterranean Countries and the European Community in 1976 in order to coordinate their activities and take all appropriate measures to prevent, abate combat and eliminate pollution of the Mediterranean sea and enhance the marine and coastal environment so as to contribute towards sustainable development.

(3) In accordance with Article 10 of the 1976 Emergency Protocol, and Article 12 of 2002 Prevention and Emergency Protocol of the Barcelona Convention.

According to the Ministry of Environment of Lebanon, an estimated 10,000–35,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil entered the Mediterranean Sea in Lebanon and have polluted the sandy and rocky beaches, as well as many tourists’ resorts and hotels.

For further information please contact Luisa Colasimone, UNEP/MAP, +30 6949122746

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