Pollution agreement unifies troubled waters

Greenpeace urges governments to turn words into action

Press release - 17 November, 2001

Twenty Mediterranean countries and the EU agreed on the steps they need to take to rid the region of all hazardous substances by 2025, as the Barcelona Convention meeting for the protection of the Mediterranean ended in Monaco today.

Under the operational plan, every government must carry out a basic evaluation of toxic pollution in their country. This requires them to establish an inventory of every toxic substance discharged into the air and water by the end of 2003 in order to fight land based sources of pollution.

Greenpeace welcomed the plan but stressed the need to turn words into action. “This plan provides governments with a genuine opportunity to secure a future free of toxic pollution for everyone in the region. But words alone will not save the Mediterranean,” said Greenpeace political advisor, Katia Kanas.

Some countries that have been slow to ratify the Barcelona Convention and its protocols, notably Spain, Algeria, Greece, Syria and Slovenia committed themselves to doing so after delegates were reminded that their discussions directly affect lives of people in the region. On hearing the testimonies Israel also responded by promising to ratify the convention, the protocol to stop land based sources of pollution and the dumping of waste at sea immediately.

A Lebanese lung specialist, a Turkish Petrochemical industry worker and an Israeli fisherman took the floor at the meeting and testified against the disastrous effects industrial pollution has on people´s health and livelihoods.

The Israeli fisherman, Mr. Jeries Dania, who has contracted cancer, told delegates: “First they killed the fish, now they are killing us. The government issues pollution licenses to these factories. I asked the Israeli Environment Minister to ban these releases immediately. I asked the government to ratify the amendments of the Barcelona Convention and its related protocols. I also asked all Mediterranean governments to do the same in order to make the texts enter into force quickly.”

“For the last six years, promises made have remained no more than empty rhetoric. Until they ratify the Convention and all its protocols, governments can continue to dodge legal enforcement and industries can continue business as usual. We urge governments to have the political will to eliminate all hazardous substances in the Mediterranean now,´´ added Kanas.