Lebanon inaugurates pioneer scientific ship
Lebanon inaugurated on Friday a scientific ship that will be dedicated to studying flora, fauna and seismic activity off the Mediterranean coast and said to be the first such project in the region.
"Cana (as the ship is called) is the first of its kind in the Middle East," Cosimo Lacirignola, director of the Italy-based International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CHIEAM) told AFP at the inauguration ceremony.
CHIEAM is running the project, funded almost entirely by the Italian government, in collaboration with Lebanon's National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS).
The vessel will map out clean beaches in Lebanon and produce detailed bathymetric, or topographic, and seismic maps along a 10- to 15-kilometre-wide (six-to-nine-mile) strip near the Lebanese coast.
"By June, we will release the latest map of coastal red and green zones which will guide swimmers as to the beaches to frequent or avoid," Moueen Hamzeh, head of the CNRS, told AFP.
Environmental organisations for more than two years have warned swimmers of the hazards of dipping into the once-pristine Mediterranean waters which have increasingly become polluted.
In July 2006, the worst oil spill in the east Mediterranean left tonnes of crude over most of Lebanon's coast when Israel bombed a power plant at the popular sea resort town of Jiyeh, south of Beirut, during its month-long war with Hezbollah.
Cana, named after a south Lebanon town that suffered two deadly Israeli air strikes in 1996 and 2006, will be able to identify and analyse pollutants, no small feat in a country like Lebanon, which regularly dumps untreated sewage into the Mediterranean.
Italy has earmarked 2.3 million euros (three million dollars) for the Cana project while the CNRS has contributed 335,000 euros.