The Post-Conflict Branch started monitoring environmental issues associated with the conflict in mid-July 2006, by tracking potential environmental impacts on both sides of the border. Hence, it was known prior to the end of the conflict that the conflict in July-August 2006 caused significant damage in Lebanon and in Israel, including environmental damage.
On 5 August 2006, the Executive Director of UN Environment received a request from the Lebanese Ministry of Environment to undertake a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment in Lebanon.
The Post-Conflict Branch, in cooperation with the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, the Regional Office for West Asia, UNDP-Beirut, IUCN and local counterparts, consequently conducted a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of Lebanon. The fieldwork took place between 30 September and 21 October 2006.
During the field phase international experts, accompanied by members of staff of the Ministry of Environment, visited more than 40 sites and investigated issues relating to solid and hazardous waste, industrial contamination, coastal and marine contamination, water resources, asbestos and weapons used. Samples were collected and analysed by laboratories in the UK, Sweden and Switzerland.
The bombing of the Jiyeh Power Plant resulted in the spillage of an estimated 10-15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean. UNEP’s marine biologists inspected the coastline from Tyre to Tripoli to assess the degree of oil contamination and surveyed the seabed to a depth of 25m at approximately 25 sites. UN Environment experts also investigated various sites for potential chemical contamination of soil and water sources as a result of the bombing of industrial facilities.
One of the UN Environment sub-teams focused on munitions used during the conflict, specifically investigated the possible use of depleted uranium (DU) and unconventional weapons. Laboratory work finalized in November 2006 found that the samples taken by UNEP scientists showed no evidence of penetrators or metal made of DU or any other radioactive material. In addition, no DU shrapnel or other radioactive residue was found and the analysis showed no enriched uranium or higher than natural uranium content in any of the samples. Please the see the laboratory results summary for more detail.
The large number of cluster bombs with a low detonation rate dropped by the IDF over the last days before the ceasefire remains, however, an issue of serious concern.