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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Mediterranean 'a dumping ground'
Oil slick on Lebanese beach
Israel's bombing of Lebanon led to a major oil spill on the Mediterranean
The United Nations has launched a campaign in Greece to clean up the Mediterranean, warning the sea is being treated like a dustbin.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) says millions of tonnes of sewage and toxic waste are dumped in the Mediterranean every year.

They also warn sea animals are dying from mistakenly eating plastic bags.

As part of a global clean-up campaign this weekend, thousands of volunteers will clear Mediterranean beaches.

Saverio Cevili, of the UN's Mediterranean action plan, says the lack of concern for the environment must change.

"A plastic bag before being degraded by the sea and sun will stay in the sea for 150 years. Even a cigarette can stay up to five years - the paper of the cigarette," he says.


But Mr Cevili says that while the Mediterranean is in crisis, it is not dying.

650m tonnes sewage
60,000 tonnes mercury
36,000 tonnes phosphates

Its powers of recovery are still strong but the sea and its marine life need a helping hand, he says.

The Clean Up the Mediterranean campaign this weekend is part of a global initiative.

Volunteers from 13 countries across the Mediterranean Sea - including scout groups in Algeria - will engage in a range of environmental activities.

The coastlines of Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are home to 150 million people and an estimated 170 million tourists visit each year.

Rapid urbanisation of coastal areas, marine pollution and dumping of toxic waste are threatening the diversity of the area, which is a global tourist attraction.

The Mediterranean was also recently threatened by its worst ever environmental disaster after Israel's bombing of a power plant in Lebanon sent thousands of tonnes of fuel gushing into the sea.

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