February 28, 2021

The amount of tar that has polluted the sand beaches of south Lebanon in recent days has been estimated to be at around two tons, a Lebanese MP said.

“The cleaning process will be arduous and painstaking and it requires followup and cooperation between municipalities, scout associations and local, national and international NGOs and environmental groups,” MP Enaya Ezzeddine of the Development and Liberation bloc said.

Hoping that the cleaning process will be completed within 15 days, Ezzeddine said the effort “needs a lot of equipment and tools for the delicate cleaning operation, protective clothes for the working teams and bags for the collection and storing of the polluting material.”

She also called on state authorities to contribute to securing the needed equipment, noting that some have been donated by the UNIFIL forces and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The volunteers must be aided by additional manpower in order to finish the mission as soon as possible,” Ezzeddine added.

She also called on the environment and public works ministries to “shoulder their responsibilities as to the process of packaging the material resulting from the cleaning process and laying out a vision for disposing of the material in the best way possible.”

Lebanese on Saturday raked balls of tar away from a turtle beach in the South after a massive slick washed ashore after hitting neighboring Israel.

A storm more than a week ago threw tons of the sticky, black substance onto the beaches of Israel, apparently after leaking from a ship.

Within days the spill had spread to south Lebanon, where clumps of tar contaminated beaches stretching from the border town of Naqoura to the southern city of Tyre.

The swathe of coastline, which includes some of the country’s best preserved beaches, is a nesting site for turtles which usually appear later in the year.

On Saturday morning, mask-clad volunteers and members of the civil defense sifted blobs of tar out of sand on the beach of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve, an AFP journalist said.

The protected zone covers 3.8 square kilometers of beach as well as adjacent sea waters.

As well as endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles, the beach provides shelter for the Arabian spiny mouse.

Mouin Hamze, the head of the National Council for Scientific Research, has said that the pollution could continue washing up on Lebanese shores for up to three months.

A survey of the area using drones is not yet complete, but he said the damage was extensive in the South while tar had even landed on the beach further north in the capital Beirut.

Israeli authorities said Sunday they had cleared a Greek tanker of suspicion in relation to the oil spill that caused the massive tar pollution.

Powerful winds and unusually high waves pummeled Israel’s entire Mediterranean coastline on February 17, with tons of tar staining 160 kilometersof beach from its borders with the Gaza Strip to Lebanon.

According to Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry, there are “dozens” of vessels under suspicion, with Israeli inspectors, aided in some cases by international bodies, already ruling out around 10 of them.

The ministry said in a Sunday statement it was monitoring, with the help of the Israeli air force, a stain in the sea some 150 kilometers offshore that could be oil.