By Peter Stevenson
THE EFFECTS of the oil spill in the sea off the Karpas peninsula last month could have been limited had the Turkish Cypriots accepted immediate help from Cyprus’ relevant departments, according to a report by the University of Cyprus.
The University’s oceanography department used the Mediterranean Decision Support System for Marine Safety (MEDESS-4MS) in cooperation with the ports authority, fisheries department and the department for marine research to formulate a prediction of how it could have unfolded.
MEDESS-4MS is dedicated to the strengthening of maritime safety by mitigating the risks and impacts associated to oil spills.
The research clearly showed that if The Turkish Cypriot side had accepted the help initially offered, the majority of the oil spill could have been confined if it had been dealt with within the12-18 hours.
It also showed that there was a danger that part of the spill could have spread to the Paralimni area as well as the residue which sank and was swept away by the tide.
MEDESS-4MS capitalises on existing pan-European frameworks and embraces recent advances and important developments in oceanography in the Mediterranean area. It aims to deliver an integrated operational multi model oil spill system in the Mediterranean by gathering and analysing met-ocean data as well as data related to ship traffic, ship operations and sensitivity mapping. This data is provided to help well established oil spill monitoring and forecasting systems, providing an invaluable tool regarding the early detection and efficient control of oil spills at early stages.
MEDESS-4MS aims to offer a comprehensive and integrated multi-model approach regarding response to oil spills at sea; an approach that takes into account all three important aspects related to marine pollution, that is, prevention, detection and control.
The beneficiary countries of MEDESS-4MS are Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro and Spain.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris reported yesterday that the Turkish Cypriot Doctors’ Union (KTTB) accused the ‘government’ of not being transparent on the issue of the environmental disaster that happened in the sea off Gastria, and of not taking the necessary measures.
In statements during a press conference on Monday, the union argued that the sea area from the north of the Gulf of Famagusta until Larnaca was at risk and reiterated the warning that women who were pregnant, and children younger than seven years old should avoid entering into the sea in that area.
‘Minister’ of health, Buri Goksin told Kibris that the analysis of the water samples taken from the area was on-going and added that they could not prevent people from entering into the sea before having the final results.
Paralimni Mayor Theodoros Pyrillis announced last week that all remnants from the oil spill had been completely removed from Famagusta beaches.
Head of the Fisheries department, Loizos Loizides had pre-empted the University’s findings in the aftermath of the spill, stating it would take months to clean up, and the effects on the environment would be long lasting.
Loizides added that even though the Turkish Cypriots finally caved in and sought help from the government, the damage had already been done.
“Once the first 24 hours pass then dealing with the problem intensifies and becomes even more difficult as the oil seeps into the waterbed and into underwater plant-life,” he said.
It was reported last month that AKSA energy had been deemed responsible for the spill and were fined around €68,000 (169,800 Turkish Lira) by the environmental protection office in the north for polluting the sea and beaches in the area of Gastria.