Environment inaction threatens the Eastern Mediterranean

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By Athina Kariati – New Internationalist Left – the CWI in Cyprus

Climate change is having severe implications for the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. According to scientists, the temperature of the area is increasing at a much faster rate than the global average and precipitation throughout the region is expected to decline. These factors, combined with the greed for more profit by the ruling elites will have disproportional effects for the destruction of the environment here compared to other areas. [1]

Anastasiades, the President of the Republic of Cyprus proposed to the last UN summit to create an initiative in which 13 countries of the area would collaborate to find a way to tackle climate change.[2] The overwhelming majority of these countries are producing fossil fuels! While capitalist governments and ruling elites are crying crocodile tears, they continue with their policies.

Extraction of natural gas and oil

The discovery of natural gas in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus in 2011, has wetted the appetite for more drilling and extractions to the south of Cyprus, but also around Crete, in the Ionian sea of Greece and in the Epirus region of Greece. The drilling is taking place in highly seismic zones, with a high risk of an accident, similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Already the exploratory drilling is having an effect on the sea-life, and in the case of Epirus, a whole forest is in danger. Any accident could damage farming, fishing and tourism, the three economic sectors that are essential to maintain the livelihoods of those living around the prospect drilling areas.

However, the governments of the region are willing to risk all to secure the profits of the energy tycoons. They are even willing to protect these interests even if it is at the expense of new military conflicts. Throughout the past decade, natural gas extraction has exacerbated tensions between the capitalist governments of the region, this has been made worse by world imperialist meddling. In particular, a conflict between the so-called “Energy Triangle” alliance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in collaboration with western imperialist energy giants, on the one hand, and Turkish capitalist aspirations on the other, has just escalated dangerously.

In early October, Erdogan sent two Turkish drilling ships, Yavuz and Fatih, under the permanent escort of frigates, submarines, assault boats, warships, unmanned drones, and naval patrols, to drill for gas within the Cypriot EEZ, while the French and Italian corporations Total and Eni had already received exploration licenses for the same area [3]. This is just one more violation in a series of violations in the area covered by Cyprus’s EEZ that have been accompanied by the boosted military presence of US, France and Russia around Cyprus, and the use of Israeli drones flying over Turkish ships.

Continuous national conflict in the area

The continuous siege of Gaza by the Israeli regime has destroyed all its infrastructure. Scientists estimate that by 2020, zero percent of the Gazan groundwater will be fit for human use, while 70% of Gaza’s untreated sewage goes straight into the sea. At the same time, the over-irrigation of the water of the West Bank by the Israeli regime in the occupied territories, has led to the exhaustion of ground water aquifers raising the risk of the desertification of whole areas. [4]

In Lebanon, after the 2015 trash crisis that sparked a protest movement, the government, into which sectarian divide has been enshrined has simply proposed as a “solution” transferring waste management to private contractors. Mountains of trash are rising along the Beirut coastline where the beach used to be, with loads of this rubbish ending up in the sea. [5] The Mediterranean Sea is thought to have the sixth highest concentration of plastic waste amongst the world’s seas, containing about 5-10% of the global volume of plastic waste currently found in the oceans. [6]

Mining

Mining is known to contribute to the rise of atmospheric temperature, but it is also a major cause of the desertification of whole areas. However, the capitalist governments of the region are selling off the natural resources under “third world” conditions and without any control. In this way, El Dorado Gold in Skouries, Greece will destroy an ancient forest, and the Turkish government has given the green light for the Alamos Gold Company to mine in the Kaz mountains. The Cyprus government has issued permits for the extraction of gold from the waste of the old Skouriotissa mine at the foot of the Troodos mountains, which will leave a huge mound of cyanide contaminated waste, as well as exploration permits for copper and gold mining that will destroy the Paphos forest. in western Cyprus. Such new hazardous mining projects have stirred up important protests in recent years.

No illusions! Action now to stop climate change and the environmental disaster in Eastern Mediterranean!

The Eastern Mediterranean is bathed by sun for about 350 days a year, has strong winds and plenty of water to use for the production of energy. It is an ideal region for the generation of renewable energy to replace the extraction and burning of fossil fuel, which could be potentially used to create thousands of clean well-paid jobs. The protection of the few forests that are left are more important than the grains of gold, copper or silver that the mining companies want to take. But the capitalist elites in the region and their blind profit-based system are opposed to such a solution.

Our fight is not to make politicians listen, but to build a sufficiently broad and strong movement in the region and in the world, which can tear the very control of natural resources, energy and economy from these tycoons, as part of the struggle for a socialist economy run according to the logic of democratic and environmental planning. There is no other way to carry out all the reforms that are needed, not only in energy and industry, but also to put an end to extreme inequality and conflicts in our region.

  1. http://emme-care.cyi.ac.cy/wp-content/uploads/CIMME-REPORT.pdf
  2. https://in-cyprus.com/cyprus-initiative-on-climate-change-aims-to-develop-a-forum-of-dialogue-minister-kadis-says/
  3. https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/turkish-ships-disturb-cypriot-waters
  4. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-environmental-state-of-gaza-poses-threat-to-israel-s-national-security-report-warns-1.7328966
    https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4615-1327-8_35
  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-garbage/no-end-to-crisis-in-sight-as-lebanons-garbage-mountains-grow-idUSKBN1FO0F1
  6. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006/meta

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