At any given moment, the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile may occur, in the heart of the Mediterranean, between Crete and Sicily. The whole process is implemented with legal coverage in accordance to relevant UN decisions-an organization that is allegedly an independent peacemaker, but is actually known to be controlled by the same members who market these dangerous chemical weapons, such as the U.S., Russia, China and France; countries which are also permanent members of the UN. It must be noted that countries like France, Germany, Norway, Belgium and Albania, which have facilities to deal with such dangerous waste, have not permitted the destruction of these chemical weapons within their territories due to lack of appropriate infrastructure. However, all of a sudden, their destruction is deemed safe aboard a moving fleet in international waters, where control is virtually impossible.
The UN, with legal cover-up, disregards a number of international conventions for the protection of the marine environment and public health (from which exemptions are made for military operations), ignoring the precautionary approach, and attempts to enforce a dangerous precedent in the Mediterranean, states Anastasia Miliou, research director of the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in Greece. The selection of this dumping site was not made arbitrarily, since Mediterranean countries are currently dealing with a severe economic crisis and are under the control of weak governments. Therefore people are less likely to react. And now, apart from the crisis, these nations must also deal with the serious environmental threat posed by the dispersal of dangerous chemicals by sea currents, throughout the semi-enclosed Mediterranean Sea.
Of course the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons provide reassurance towards the environmental safety of the hydrolysis method to be used for the destruction of the chemical weapons. However, Archipelagos Institute and numerous other experts are highly concerned about the potential hazards of such a complex destructive process. Not only has this type of procedure never been carried out before, it is also the first time these chemicals will be used to such an extent in the highly unstable marine environment. This does not even take into account the consequences marine life might face due to the possible dumping of liquid waste produced during the process.
As mentioned by Dr. Gidarakos, Professor at the University of Crete (Laboratory of Toxic and Hazardous Waste Management), “It is contradictory to demand detailed environmental impact assessments and public consultations before authorising the construction of a simple sewage treatment plant, while carrying out major operations such as dangerous chemical waste treatment, under unclear procedures, with media as the only source of information for national authorities, is considered adequate”.
Time is pressing. Our response has to be immediate, as according to reports, two ships loaded with chemical weapons are already en-route; one is currently in Cyprus and the other in Italy. Archipelagos Institute requests immediate action by the Greek , Italian and European authorities and aims to motivate international scientific and environmental organisations to help annul this procedure, until either a) an alternative plan to destroy the chemical arsenal in appropriate on-land facilities is found, or b) the possibility for supervision of the procedure is provided by impartial scientific experts from neighbouring countries, who will ensure the safety of the marine environment. The imminent threat of further destruction of the highly sensitive Mediterranean ecosystems, which have already been under great stress over the last few years, must be prevented.