Cleaner Mediterranean

CATANIA, Sicily – Over 2,600 tons of petroleum, 55 tons of the toxic pesticide Lindane and dozens of tons of other hazardous organic pollutants wind up every year in the Mediterranean Sea, the source of life and economic development for 21 countries, including Greece. A clear image of the catastrophic effects of human activities on «Mare Nostrum» was presented here last week at the 13th meeting of signatories to the Barcelona Convention on the protection of the marine environment and Mediterranean coast under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP). Government ministers and delegates from the 21 countries around the Mediterranean met last week to debate ways to protect the sea which covers just 1.5 percent of the world sea surface, is home to 7.5 percent of marine species and has a human population of 150 million along its coasts. Priorities for this year’s conference (held every two years) were the preservation of the sea’s unique biodiversity, the avoidance of shipping accidents leading to oil spills, and the adoption of the Johannesburg declarations on sustainable development in the region. After three days of negotiations, all countries agreed to a joint declaration, although not legally binding and which does not include many specific goals or schedules. Although some goals were adopted, some non-governmental organizations accused the governments of a lack of political will. Only one of the six protocols of the Barcelona Convention has been ratified. The rest concern issues such as the disposal of waste and pollution originating on land, which have not yet come into force. An otherwise generalized declaration contained two goals that were adopted: a 20 percent reduction in hazardous waste emptied into the sea by 2010, and a 50 percent reduction of one type of industrial waste during the same period. Another item of importance concerned the need to set up infrastructure in ports so that the over 250 petroleum tanker ships on the move at any given time can dock safely.