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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
UN to study Lebanon environment
Sunbather by oil-covered harbour. Image: AFP/Getty
Oil from the Jiyyeh bombing has contaminated coastal towns
A team of experts co-ordinated by the UN is beginning an investigation into how the recent conflict with Israel has damaged Lebanon's environment.

The team will look at the oil slick along Lebanon's coast caused by bombing of a power station, pollution of water supplies and unexploded ordnance.

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) convened the team at the request of the Lebanese government.

It anticipates making a comprehensive report by the end of the year.

Oil from the Jiyyeh power station, hit during a bombing raid in July, has contaminated 140km (80 miles) of coast.

Between 10,000 and 30,000 tonnes of fuel oil flowed into the Mediterranean. By comparison, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska totalled 40,000 tonnes.

Health and fertility

Unep believes that other aspects of the country's environment now need attention.

The oil slick is affecting an estimated 140km of coast
"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," said Unep's secretary-general, Achim Steiner.

"Work is on-going to deal with the oil spill on the Lebanese coast; but 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."

Areas which the team will focus on include:

  • the estimated 22 petrol stations damaged or destroyed
  • locations where there is thought to be unexploded ordnance
  • pollution risks at damaged drinking water, sewage treatment and hospital facility sites
  • possible leaks of hazardous materials from damaged power transformers, collapsed buildings and ruptured oil lines
  • ruptured oil tanks at Beirut International Airport

In previous years, Unep teams have compiled reports on environmental damage from conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia and the Balkans.

"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," said Mr Steiner.

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08 Aug 06 |  Science/Nature
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31 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature

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