Mohammad Masnouk, Bassil: Israel practicing environmental terrorism

APRIL 20, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) Foreign Affairs Minister, Jibran Bassil, and Environment Minister, Mohammad Mashnouk, attacked Israel as carrying on environmental terrorism especially when it hit the fuel stores of Jiyeh plant in 2006 and caused the fuel leakage in the Lebanese sea that has been badly polluted.

Bassil and Mashnouk on Monday held a joint press conference at the headquarters of Foreign Affairs Ministry in Villa Bustros, in the presence of UNDP Resident Representative, Ross Mountain, and others.

Bassil said that Israel’s environmental terrorism wasn’t less harsh than the humanitarian one, indicating that Israel violates the international law in this regard at the time that Lebanon respects said law.

Mountain, for his part, gave a word which is the following:

” I would like to start by thanking you, Your Excellences, for taking the time from your busy schedules to be here today to present the results of the work we have done together on the issue of the damage from the Oil Spill that occurred in the summer of 2006.

” Sadly, war has many victims, far too many. In this case, Lebanon is no stranger to war and its detrimental consequences. However one victim of war that is often neglected is the destruction of natural resources. Ironically, damage to natural resources is sometimes itself the cause of conflict. Shelling, bombing, increased refugee populations – all have long-term consequences on ecosystems that last well beyond the period of the war itself and can cross national boundaries.Some of the consequences of war include the land and soil pollution, the burning of forests and agricultural land, the contamination of drinking water supplies, air pollution and in some cases, the destruction of the coastal ecosystem. In damaging natural resources, the livelihoods of local communities that depend on these resources are also damaged, adding misery to already desolate situations of war.

” During the July 2006 conflict in Lebanon, the specialised agencies of the UN supported the Government in flagging the impact of the conflict on Lebanon’s already fragile environment at the time and assisted in remediating the damages that the conflict inflicted on natural resources. Some of the studies completed by international and local scientists and experts included:

– The FAO’s report entitled “Lebanon – Damage and Early Recovery Needs: Assessment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry” which was published in November of 2006;

– The comprehensive report prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “Post Conflict Environmental Assessment, 2007″.

– Lebanon’s” Rapid Environmental Assessment for Greening Recovery, Reconstruction and Reform in Lebanon that had a specific chapter of War and Environment” completed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the beginning of 2007; and

– The WorldBank’s “Economic Assessment of Environmental Degradation Due to the July 2006 Hostilities” dated 11 October 2007.

” Of all the damages caused by the conflict, the oil spill resulting from the Israeli bombing of the fuel tanks located in the Jiyeh Power Plant south of Beirut, was the most detrimental on the environment. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil leaked from the tanks, contaminating more than 150km of the coast line of Lebanon, spreading North all the way to Syria.

” UNagencies were present during and immediately following the catastrophe: support was provided to the Ministry of Environment’s committee on Emergency Response to coordinate clean-up activities. On-the-ground assistance was provided through various oil spill containment and clean-up projects funded by various donors include the Governments of Japan, the United States, Canada, Monaco and others.

Oil waste management projects continued on for several years after the incident and to date, Lebanon has nearly 2,500 cubic meters of oil-contaminated waste stored in secure locations along the coast that still need to be treated or removed. It took more than four years to collect all the floating oil, clean up the sand and rocky beaches of Lebanon and to restore, to the best possible level given the limited resources available at the time, the coastal ecosystem.

” In December 2006, the UN General Assembly recognised the adverse impact of the oil spill that affected Lebanon as a result of the bombing of the Jiyeh fuel tanks and accordingly issued a resolution that requested the Secretary General to submit a report quantifying the impacts and providing more information on the legal aspects of the case.

Yearly reports were presented to the Secretary General of the United Nations ever since to follow-up on the implementation of the respective UN General Assembly Resolution. These reports were prepared by an inter-agency team of experts from UNEP and UNDP. Local and international lawyers, scientists, economists and environmental experts were consulted to assess the effects of the oil spill, advice on legal implications and determine what is needed to restore the natural environment.

“UNDP commissioned two assessments that were not only crucial in moving the resolution forward, but provided unique legal and economic analyses on the case. These reports could support other countries to determine the cost of environmental damages on their national economy and to provide the international legislative framework to request compensation for similar cases.

” As mentioned by Minister Mashnouk, the General Assembly resolution 69/212 adopted 19 December 2014, endorsed the calculation of856.4 million US dollars and requests that the Government of Israel to assume responsibility. This is an achievement for Lebanon and the Environment.

” Finally, I would like to end by thanking everyone who worked on the oil spill case from the beginning, particularly the team at the Ministry of Environment, the Lebanese Mission in New York, the United Nations Environment Program – both in Geneva and in Bahrain, and the team at UNDP here in Lebanon and in New York.”