[Coral-List] Scientists letter to stop medred
elinornadir at mail.tau.ac.il
Sun Jan 3 14:32:40 UTC 2021
A forwarded letter (attachment pasted in text) to all scientists who don't
want the corals in the northern red sea to be destroyed. Please help us
save our reef. Forward as widely as possible.
Attached to this email is a scientist's letter against turning Eilat into
an oil and gas terminal (a.k.a, the Med-Red initiative). The letter was
written in part by Prof. Maoz Fine, Dr. Yehiam Shlesinger, and Prof. Nadav
Shashar. Please, read this letter, and if you are touched and
have/currently achieving a Ph.D., send an email back to the following
addresses (tzofitkd at gmail.com and Youval at zalul.org.il), with your name and
area of expertise. I emphasize that your name will appear in the letter.
It is easy, during this crazy era, to fall into apathy. However, if the oil
transport will be renewed in the Gulf, potential devastating damage will
challenge our beloved reef, work environment, Eilat city (which many of us
call home), and the sights our children will witness in the upcoming years.
Scientist's letters can have major impacts on decision-makers. Let's do our
I personally thank you if you sign this letter and forward it to your Ph.D.
candidates and colleagues.
All the best,
We, the undersigned, are scientists voicing an urgent call to prevent the
renewal of the EAPC pipeline activity and Eilat and Ashqelon's conversion
to petroleum ports. We gather from a wide range of professional disciplines
relevant to environmental protection, both marine and terrestrial. We are
coral reefs experts, marine biologists, geologists, ecologists,
geographers, economists, and urban planners.
As these words are being written, a new initiative is in the works to
transport petroleum from the Persian Gulf states to Eilat, from there to
Mediterranean ports, and onward to Europe, via the infrastructure of EAPC.
According to the plan1, every year dozens of huge tankers will unload their
petroleum and distillate contents at the EAPC pier, which borders the Eilat
Coral Reef Nature Reserve. From there, these materials will flow through
antiquated pipelines for the entire length of the Arava and Negev deserts
to the Ashqelon depot, where they will be transferred to tankers bound for
Europe. This deal exposes the entire Gulf of Eilat / Aqaba, the Sinai
coasts and coral reefs, as well as the Mediterranean coast and the
landmasses in between, to huge danger, be it from leaks, accidents, or
intentional sabotage, events which are just a matter of time in this
volatile part of the world.
According to EAPC's statements, the agreement would provide up to 120
mega-tankers (250 thousand tons) each year2, anchoring, and transporting
petroleum via Eilat and Ashqelon piers. One "minor" accident or sabotage on
one tanker would be enough to cause a major ecological disaster in the
Mediterranean, especially in the Red Sea. For example, a spill of "only" 1%
of a tanker's contents to the sea – which amounts to thousands of barrels
of oil3 – would spread to the entire gulf. Oil would completely cover the
coasts and reefs of Eilat, Aqaba, and the Sinai.
Due to the richness of their life forms and biological diversity, coral
reefs are the world's undersea "rain forests". In the 1970s, Eilat's coral
reefs were nearly eradicated by the intensive activity of EACP tankers, and
in the ensuing 40 years, they have only barely recovered. A few months ago,
the reef was again damaged by severe storms. It would not survive the
additional insult of a major tanker spill!
The northern Red Sea corals are considered unique on a world scale. Due to
their genetic makeup, they are resistant to the damage caused by sea
temperature rise that is occurring worldwide due to the climate crisis,
which causes reef bleaching and death. Therefore, Eilat's corals may well
serve as a source for other reefs' rehabilitation throughout the planet,
but they would certainly not survive petroleum pollution.
An oil spill on the sea surface prevents the transfer of atmospheric oxygen
to the sea. The heavy petroleum particles sink, mix, and are strewn
throughout the water column. Plankton-eating fish swallow these particles,
which enter body tissues and subsequently the entire food chain. Petroleum
compounds in the water cause carcinogenic processes and damage to the
reproductive systems and the growth of juvenile stages of many marine life
forms. Moreover, the spill kills marine birds and mammals caught in the
area. The oil adheres to their bodies, solidifies, and turns to sticky tar
that destroys sea birds' ability to fly and suffocates life forms such as
dolphins and shellfish. Direct contact between the oil spill and body
tissues causes damage to the entire marine ecology, and the damage is even
more severe to the sensitive coastal reefs.
The coral reserve lies only a few hundred meters from the tankers' proposed
sea lane and the pier. Such proximity between oil tankers and a nature
reserve has no precedent anywhere on the planet. Due to the strong onshore
winds in the gulf, any oil pollution would quickly reach the coasts and the
reef. Additionally, the greater the traffic, the greater the need for the
tankers to line-up and wait, increasing the chance of sabotage and a
steering mistake, both can lead to an oil spill. In addition, the Gulf of
Aqaba is susceptible to earthquakes. Eliat ports region can be the
epicenter of the next large earthquake, while EAPC old piers and pipes
infrastructure were bullied before modern standards for seismic hazards
resistance were appley in Israel.
Moreover, the coral reefs' richness is the heart of the natural environment
and tourism in this area, drawing millions of tourists each year to Eilat,
Aqaba, and Sinai. Every tanker is a spill threat, which could wipe out the
tourist cities of Eilat (Israel), Aqaba (Jordan), and Sinai (Egypt). The
three nations have invested billions of dollars and built thousands of
hotel rooms and new airports, all of which would be laid to waste by a
major pollution event. Nowhere else on the globe is there such proximity of
tankers discharging oil into tourist sites and bathing beaches.
Over the years, the EACP pipeline from Eilat to Ashqelon has been the site
and source of grave ecological disasters, notably Evrona and Nahal Zin,
among other events. Increasing the volume of oil flowing in the overland
pipeline increases the exposure of ecologically sensitive areas and nature
reserves to damage from which they will not manage to recover. In the 2014
Evrona disaster, a "mere" 5000 m3 of oil was spilled. Any event of this
scale – and the proposed plan is an invitation to disaster, sooner or later
– would be exponentially worse on the sea.
In the Ashqelon depot, an oil spill would halt the desalination plants'
activity, which supplies most of Israel's drinking water. A severe leak
would pollute the Mediterranean coast along many kilometers and harm
commerce and other vital infrastructures.
A severe oil spill in Eilat would damage thousands of families'
livelihoods, and billions of dollars of investment in the Gulf of Aqaba's
tourism infrastructure would be erased. The Eilat municipality has approved
impressive plans for developing tourism and other seaborn enterprises for
the local population4 over the coming years. All will be for naught when
the oil starts to flow. Eilat, which was selected as one of the most
beautiful gulf cities in the world, will become an oil and gas port, bereft
of tourists, with rising morbidity.
Every person who treasures the Red Sea must stand up and express their
opposition to this plan. From the point of view of damage control, EACP and
its partners will gain immense profits, with no risk, while the city of
Eilat will bear all the risks, especially the risk of inestimable damage to
the city's primary source of subsistence, with marginal gain at best.
We call on the Israeli government to consider the potentially numerous and
grave dangers this plan poses and stop its implementation by EACP.
Please help us save the Gulf and the Red Sea by openly opposing this plan.
The day after disaster there will be nothing to save.
1 – Agreement/memorandum signed between EAPC and Med-Red Land Bridge. Lior
Gutman, Calcalist, 20.10.20; Tsafrir Rinat, Haaretz, 21.10.20.
2 – According to EACP agreement publication, annual pipeline capacity would
be 30 million cubic meters = 120 tankers of 250 thousand DWT, the upper
load limit for the Ashqelon depot (according to EACP website the
Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipe annual capacity is 60 million tons). The unloading
capacity of the tankers at Eilat depot and the loading capacity at Ashqelon
are 20 and 10 cubic meters per hour, respectively, meaning 30 million tons
annually can be borne via Israel. However, the present bottleneck is the
result of the rest of the EAPC marine infrastructure (towboats. etc) and
lack of deployment by the Ministry of Environmental Protection Marine
Division in case of a spill disaster at these loads, especially in Ashqelon
but also in Eilat.
3 – 1% of 250 thousand tons at a density of 0.9 tons per cubic meter is
equal to 17,470 barrels of oil (each barrel containing 159 liters of oil).
4 – For instance use of natural substances, production of pharmaceuticals
from the waters of the gulf through research and development of marine
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