Israel Battles Huge Ecological Disaster

Israel is battling what Benjamin Netanyahu describes as “a huge ecological disaster” in which as much as a thousand tons of oil and tar are washing up on its coastline. The Israeli Prime Minister said:

"We must act quickly before it seeps into the ground, especially in the
rocky areas where it will damage and stay with us for many years.”

Israel`s government today approved allocation of NIS 45 million ($13.7 million) towards a plan to clean up the country`s coastline. Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel tweeted:

“We will do everything to repair the ecological damage so that we can go back
to enjoying Israel’s beautiful beaches and open beach season on time.”

Health risks from the tar prompted the government to warn the general population on Sunday to stay away from the coast. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says 105 miles out of Israel’s 118 miles of beaches have been damaged by the oil spill. There was no warning of it, so the Israeli authorities were taken by surprise.

Evidence first emerged last week when a baby fin whale was found dead on a beach in southern Israel, along with other marine wildlife.

Thousands of volunteers are working hard to remove sticky lumps of tar from the beaches, supported by thousands of soldiers from the Israel Defence Forces. One of the volunteers, said:

“The beaches belong to all of us. The size of the pollution is so big
that we need every person available to come and help.”

The NIS 45 million clean-up budget, proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu and Gila Gamliel, the Environmental Protection Minister, will come from the country’s Fund for the Prevention of Marine Pollution. That was set up around 40 years ago to pay for this kind of work as well as training and equipment.

The fund’s money comes mostly from fees paid by ships and fuel terminals, but around one third comes from fines related to oil pollution.

UPDATE 24th February

The Israelis have today started to dispose of around 1,200 tons of tar and contaminated waste that has been collected. It will be taken to biological treatment facilities or suitable landfill sites.

Given the extent of this pollution, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) says cleaning the landscape will take many months to complete. Consequently, they have issued an urgent appeal for funds to help meet the challenge.

If anyone would like to support this effort financially, there is a UK branch of SPNI which is a registered charity. They will forward all donations to the rescue effort without delay.