A UN team of oil spill and chemical experts, provided by the European Union (EU), is working with the Sri Lankan Government to assess the impact on the environment caused by the MV X-press Pearl disaster. The team from the UN, France and Italy is a collaboration between the humanitarian arm of the European Union (EU ECHO/ERCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit. An independent UN report on the incident will be produced with key findings and recommendations on short-term response measures and longer-term recovery planning and submitted to the Government.
The three experts are Dr. Stephane Le Floch from the France National Oil Response and Research Centre (CEDRE) who is a specialist in oil spill response and contingency planning, Dr. Camille La Croix also from CEDRE specializing in marine litter pollution and Mr. Luigi Alcaro from the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA, Environment Ministry) who specializes in environmental impact assessment of oil and hazardous noxious substances spills in the marine environment.
The team is providing technical advisory support to the Sri Lankan experts on oil spill contingency planning, clean-up operations and environmental impact assessment, drawing on international best practice and lessons learned from similar incidents. They will work closely with Sri Lankan counterparts from Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Ministry of Environment, Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and a host of other government agencies.
“The UN is coordinating international efforts and mobilizing partners to support Sri Lanka in addressing the disaster of the MV X-Press Pearl, based on a request by the Government. An environmental emergency of this nature causes significant damage to the planet by the release of hazardous substances into the ecosystem, this in turn threatens lives and livelihoods of the population in the coastal areas. Our efforts are intended to support assessment of the damage, recovery efforts and ensure prevention of such disasters in the future’, UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy said.
“The EU's civil protection policy is one of the very practical facets of EU solidarity. It underscores the increasing importance of a collaborative and integrated approach to disaster management. Therefore, I’m pleased to announce that the EU, in collaboration with the UN, is able to deploy environmental emergency experts to support Sri Lanka in addressing, and more importantly limiting, the impact of the MV X-press Pearl disaster,” Thorsten Bargfrede, Chargé d'affaires at the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) / Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit is the global mechanism for responding to environmental emergencies. Established in 1994, the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit has been involved in responding to over 150 environmental catastrophes over the past 25 years. A significant number of these disasters have involved oil spill incidents including most recently in the Bahamas and Solomon Islands in 2019. The UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit draws on a large pool of partner institutions to deploy experts, and in the case of Sri Lanka is grateful for the generous support mobilized by the European Union.
The European Union (EU) Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) acts as a coordination hub with the 27 Member States of the EU. It was activated on request of the Sri Lankan Government to mobilize support in addressing the X-Press pearl incident. In addition, satellite images were provided through the European Union Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to detect potential oil spills. A donation of EUR 200,000 will also be provided by the humanitarian arm of the European Union (EU ECHO) for protective equipment used in cleaning operations and to assist fishermen who have lost their livelihoods.