More than 160 Kilometers of Israeli coastlines are covered with tar threatening the wildlife and ecosystem of the region.
It was first last Wednesday when reports about the observation of a 17-meter dead whale on the Israeli beach cast attentions on the issue. A couple of days later, widespread sign of a black substance off the shores of the country alarmed authorities and people.
Following the heavy storm last Wednesday, black tars covered large parts of coasts. The reports confirmed that the whale lost its life due to the ingestion of the black liquid. Seemingly, hundreds of tons of oil had leaked to the waters contaminating the whole region.
Since then, several volunteers to clear the coasts were hospitalized due to inhaling fumes. Local authorities advised people not to use the coasts for sport and leisure until safe condition is secured.
The consequences of the disaster described as “one of the most serious ecological disasters” in the Israel’s history by the country’s Nature and Parks Authority remains to be known. Environmentalists fear that large part of marine in the region has been annihilated. Till now, what is unknown in far more than what is known.
The source of the contamination is also unknown. The Environmental Protection Ministry confirmed the use of satellite images to track the source of the oil spill in an area covering more than 50 kilometers off the coasts. Ten ships are said to be observed in the region in days before and after February 11. The whale whose lungs where found filled with black tars is expected to have died about two weeks ago. The timing shows the region is dealing with the silent crisis for more than 10 days.
The cleanup of the coasts is expected to take long time because the best and safest way, ecosystem-wise, is human cleanup. Hopes about ending the cleanup operation before beach season are still in haze since no certain estimation of the extent of the damage can be made.
Concerns about contamination of drinking water supply in the country’s desalination plants is resolved temporarily by authorities. Nevertheless, due to bewilderment about source, extent, and dimensions of the crisis, there is no certainty about what is expecting people in the country. Israel’s desalination plants provide more than 75 percent of the country’s drinking water and its contamination could lead the country into a horrible human disaster.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit to the southern city of Ashdod, asserted that the government would assess allocation of funds to accelerate the process of cleanup. Netanyahu’s promise recalled the long years of inadvertence by his government and his predecessors to the environmental plans to decrease the risk of such crises.
Gila Gamliel, Environmental Protection Minister in Israel government only emphasized on the necessity of such preparations after a crisis emerged. “We need to look to the future – this event and similar ones around the world show us how crucial it is to wean ourselves from these polluting fuels, and shift to renewable energy,” said Gamliel in an interview.
Non-governmental organization in Israel working on protection of environment believe that we face Non Liquet in dealing with such disasters. This is why the government is underfunded and no practical budget is allocated yet. Former attempts to pave the legal way for environmental plans were all doomed to failure.
It was first in 2008 when National Plan for Preparedness and Response to Marine Oil Pollution Incidents was discussed. Ehud Olmert’s government decided to implement the plan in three years, but no practical step in its legalization was made.
Twenty-three years later, the country is dealing with a Marine Oil Pollution Incidents which can lead the country from an already natural catastrophe to a human catastrophe.