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Protecting our environment from natural and man-made disasters

Source(s):  Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Programme on Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters (PPRD South)

Press release:

How to prevent environmental emergencies and how to deal with them promptly and effectively is the main focus of the workshop on better preparedness for environmental emergencies organised in Istanbul from 18 to 22 February by the EU-funded PPRD South Programme in collaboration with the United Nations UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit.

For five days, 27 experts from the Civil Protection Authorities of 11 Mediterranean and Balkan countries will gather on the Bosporus, one of the top risk areas in the region for oil spills caused by tankers collisions, to analyse in detail recent disasters which affected the environment in the Euro-Mediterranean region and devise possible preparedness measures to respond to future crisis. Participants will review the available tools for identifying in advance the possible negative consequences on the environment of a natural or a technological disaster and putting in place mitigation measures.

Environmental emergencies in the Mediterranean region are mostly related to oil spills in the sea – generated by tanker collisions or explosions - and to pollution of rivers and soils as a consequence of industrial accidents. Workshop participants will analyse, with the help of experts from the Bosporus Vessel Traffic and Emergency Response Centre, the major oil spill accidents happened in the region: from the fire of the "Irenes Serenade" tanker in 1980 in the Navarino Bay in Greece with an oil spill of 50 million litres, to the 1981 grounding of the "Juan Lavalleja" tanker in the Arzew harbour in Algeria with 49 million litres, and the explosion of the “Haven” tanker in 1991 off Genoa in Italy with an oil spill of 180 million litres.

During the workshop, participants will also review lessons learned from major “land-based” environmental disasters in Europe and the Mediterranean: the accident at the Baia Mare gold processing plant in Romania, where, in 2000, 100.000 cubic meters of toxic waste water spilled out and flooded into the Danube affecting Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Bulgaria; the collapse of the tailing dam of the Aznalcóllar lead-zinc mine in 1998 in Spain which caused millions cubic metres of toxic material contaminating agricultural lands and rivers; and the Sandoz agrochemical storehouse accident in Switzerland where, in 1986, the contaminated water used to control a fire entered the Rhine devastating aquatic life.

Mediterranean coastal environment houses and provides livelihood for at least 150 million people. Almost 13 gas plants, 55 refineries, 180 power stations, 750 yacht harbours, 286 commercial ports, 112 airports, 238 desalination plants were identified by UNEP along the Mediterranean coast. Most of these facilities are potential sources of environmental emergencies in case of natural or man-made disasters. Establishing adequate measures to mitigate their impact is a top priority for the whole region.

The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit – a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – is the primary UN mechanism to mobilize and coordinate international assistance to countries affected by environmental emergencies.

For more information, please contact: Alessandro Candeloro, +39 349 0850931,

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  • Publication date 14 Feb 2013

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