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Gulf oil refineries 'a health hazard'

Manama, November 4, 2008

Some of the Gulf region's oil refineries are more dangerous to the environment and human health than nuclear plants, experts said in Bahrain on Monday.

Such refineries in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are serious pollutants due to the high sulphur fuel they produce, they said, according to a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.

'However, all these nations, including Bahrain, have realised that this has to change and low sulphur plants are now being set up,' said Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre director Captain Abdul Monem Al Janahi.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the two-day regional steering committee meeting on the implementation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships 72/78 Convention, which concluded at the Inter-Continental Regency Bahrain Hotel on Monday.

'We have seen that the upcoming nuclear power plants are extremely safe and state-of-the-art and, as such, there is virtually no danger from them,' Capt Al Janahi told the GDN.

'However, some of the plants which are already in operation are not that safe.

'Look at the nuclear plants in Israel or Pakistan, for example. What if something happens there? The whole region could be affected.'

He dismissed as propaganda that the Busher nuclear facility in Iran could cause havoc in the event of a leak.

'It is one of the most modern facilities in the world, but the ones in Israel are not. Those making that propaganda should first target Israel.'

Capt Al Janahi said that Memac was working in co-ordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency to chalk out a strategy to effectively tackle any radiation issue, in case it happens.

'This region, including Bahrain, is preparing itself to tackle any such eventuality,' he said.

The two-day meeting discussed what steps member countries - Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - have taken since the Gulf was declared a Special Sea Area on August 1.

He said the participants have expressed concern that the marine area is suffering from the influx of large and small vessels of all kinds, who bring in harmful pollutants, ballast and other material.

'While some of the countries have started implementing a management plan to tackle ships that actually violate the new regulations, others have not even started doing so,' said Capt Al Janahi.

'Bahrain is one of the countries that has started taking measures in this regard, but a lot still needs to be done,' he said.

Capt Al Janahi said though a fine of around BD50,000 had been proposed on violators, the meeting has recommended that it be raised 'substantially'.

'We hope to see it doubled after government approvals in the very near future,' he said.

Under the new guidelines, added Capt Al Janahi, all plastics, fishing nets, synthetic ropes, plastic garbage bags and incinerator ashes from plastic products as well as lining and plastic packaging materials are prohibited from being dumped anywhere in Special Sea Area.

'Also banned is the dumping of food waste, paper bags, glass, metal, bottles, crockery and similar refuse,' he said.

The Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment member states were declared by the International Maritime Organisation as designated Special Sea Area.

The Gulf marine area extends from Shatt Al Arab, in the north, up to the Omani-Yemeni borders in the west and Irani-Pakistani borders in the east.

Under international law, the special area means that disposing any kind of polluting material into the sea is strictly banned. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: pollution | nuclear plants | oil refineries | Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre |

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