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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03KUWAIT920 2003-03-16 04:10:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

KUWAIT PREPARES ENVIRONMENT FOR WAR

Tags:   SENV EPET KU 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 000920 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP AND OES
STATE PASS EPA
AMMAN FOR ENVIRONMENT HUB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EPET KU
SUBJECT: KUWAIT PREPARES ENVIRONMENT FOR WAR



1. SUMMARY: As part of Kuwait's wide-ranging contingency
plans ahead of a potential US-led conflict in Iraq, the GOK
has established an Emergency Response Committee tasked with
protecting the country's environment. Still stinging from
the devastating consequences of Saddam's campaign of
"environmental terrorism" waged during the Gulf War, Kuwait
has taken several steps to minimize fresh damage to its oil
industry, marine wildlife, and general well-being of its
citizenry. While the GOK will need to rely on the US
military and others to help protect its environment in the
face of an Iraqi retaliation, especially involving missiles
and chemical or biological agents, it is encouraging to see
the effort Kuwait has made in this respect to again support
the greater US cause. END SUMMARY.



2. EconOff met March 9, 2003, with key members of Kuwait's
newly-formed Emergency Response Committee: Dr. Mohammed
Al-Sarawi, Chairman of Kuwait's Environment Public Authority
(EPA); Dr. Rashed Hamad Al-Rashoud, EPA Deputy Director
General; and Captain Ali Haider of the Sea Pollution
Monitoring Department. The EPA overseas the new Committee,
which appointed Haider to supervise one of three
environmental response stations monitoring for oil slicks,
marine disruption, and air pollution resulting from an Iraqi
strike or terrorist attack inside Kuwait.



--------------------------


BACKGROUND


--------------------------





3. Iraq's destruction in 1991 of Kuwait's oil fields and the
consequent damage to the air and sea represents possibly the
most intense environmental attack any country has ever
endured. Using the environment as a weapon, retreating Iraqi
troops set hundreds of oil wells ablaze, turning Kuwait's sky
black for days and causing billions of dollars in damage.
The resulting catastrophe took a multi-national team months
to clean up, while shattering Kuwait's economy, devastating
its infrastructure, and contributing to the country's
standing today among the world's worst environments. (Kuwait
ranked dead last out of 142 countries examined in the 2002
Environmental Sustainability Index conducted annually by
Columbia and Yale Universities.). Ever mindful of its shared
borders with Iraq, including coastline on the Persian Gulf
and a major oil field, Kuwait has folded the environment into
its wider contingency plans.



4. Unlike 1990, when Kuwait was caught off guard by Iraq's
invasion, the GOK is now preparing for the worst. In
mid-February, Kuwait's Ministry of Defense declared the
northern three-fourths of the country a "military exclusion
zone," restricting entry. Kuwait's Civil Defense Department
instigated a "We Are Ready" campaign to keep citizens
informed, including how to stock home shelters and to deal
with chemical or biological attacks. Government and private
offices are conducting mock evacuation drills. Extra
security forces are on the streets. Weapons, gas masks, and
chem-bio suits are selling in local stores. Food ration
cards have been promised to 150,000 families. Hospitals are
stockpiling medical supplies. Quick intervention teams have
been placed in schools. And everyone from oil companies to
the Kuwait Stock Exchange to the Public Department of Civil
Aviation is hastily making plans for whatever happens next.



--------------------------


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION


--------------------------





5. After nearly six months of discussions, the GOK announced
February 23 that it had formed an Emergency Response
Committee to address environmental protection measures.
(Note. Starting in October 2002, Post began asking the EPA
whether it was preparing for potential environmental threats
from Iraq and was repeatedly given vague answers of how
contingency plans were in the works but not yet finalized.
End Note.) The Committee participants, in addition to the
EPA, include representatives from Kuwait's Civil Defense
Department, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Electricity
and Water, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR),
oil companies, and other government agencies.



6. The EPA has allocated 500,000 Kuwait Dinars (about USD
$1.5 million) for Committee purposes, including the purchase
of emergency equipment and the staffing of 23 emergency rooms
throughout the country. The Committee's contingency plan
also involves the creation and operation of three larger
emergency stations designed to collect data and report
findings to a National Emergency Committee, which is led by
the Ministry of Interior and is responsible for alerting the
wider populace. Under this scheme, the GOK intends to
respond to environmental emergencies in the following areas
of oil, water, and air:

OIL
---


7. The Ministry of Oil and subsidiaries of Kuwait Petroleum
Corporation (KPC) have prepared their own contingency plans,
which involve protecting oil fields, refineries, and tankers
from an Iraqi counterattack, as well as maintaining Kuwait's
OPEC production quota at 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd).
Potential threats include missile attacks from Iraq, Saddam
setting fire to his own oil fields on the border, and Iraqi
sleeper cells or other militant groups operating inside
Kuwait. Should an oil fire break out, the GOK has contracted
two international companies that specialize in extinguishing
such blazes. The Kuwaiti Fire Fighters Team has also
received special training for oil fires and was recently
placed on 24-hour alert status.



8. On March 3, Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) announced that the
Abdali and Riqqa oil fields near Kuwait's northern border
with Iraq were shutting down and transferring workers for
personal safety. KOC Board Chairman and Managing Director
Ahmad Rashid Al-Arbeed said all northern oil fields would be
shut down in the event of war on Iraq, and other oil fields,
such as Al-Rawdhatein and Al-Sabriya further south, would
increase production to compensate for the roughly 400,000 bpd
capacity of the northern fields. Closure of western
production areas, where the 300,000 bpd capacity Manaqeeesh
oil field is situated, was also a possibility, Arbeed said.
(A March 12 statement by KPC's chairman denied war would
interrupt any operations, adding that Kuwait is currently
producing its maximum 2.4 million bpd).



9. Meanwhile, US and other allied vessels operating in the
Gulf have agreed to protect Kuwaiti tankers against any
bombings, similar to those which damaged the USS Cole and the
French oil tanker Limburg. Bahrain-based US Navy spokesman
Josh Frey told Kuwaiti press March 5 that "we have assets in
the sea and in the air to monitor shipping in the
international waters of the Central Command area of
responsibility." Frey said many US and other allied ships
were available, if necessary. Kuwait oil analyst Kamal
Al-Harami said he was confident that US and allied naval
ships will protect oil tankers in the Gulf and that the
thousands of US and British troops deployed in the Kuwaiti
desert near Iraq will provide a buffer for oil fields and
refineries.

WATER


--------------------------




10. Oil also threatens Kuwait's coastline and marine
environment. The US Coast Guard has brought in equipment to
contain oil spills, either initiated by Iraq from its own
shores or from tankers placed in the Gulf. EPA's Dr. Sarawi
said Kuwait is equipped to handle spills ranging from 7,000
to 10,000 barrels by combining efforts of the oil sector,
Ministry of Electricity and Water, Ministry of Defense,
Kuwaiti Coast Guard, and Port Authority. For oil spills
larger than 10,000 barrels, the GOK will rely on outside
sources, including the Bahrain-based Marine Emergency Mutual
Aid Center (MEMAC) and the UK-based Oil Spill Response, Ltd
(OSRAL). Dr. Sarawi said the GOK has signed memorandums of
understanding with oil companies operating in Kuwait and with
other states in the region, including Iran, to share
equipment and expertise in case of a large emergency.




11. During the Gulf War, oil flooding and toxic fumes
severely affected Kuwait's marine wildlife, including killing
many of fish, sea turtles, and aquatic plants. To minimize
further damage, Ali Haider of the Sea Pollution Monitoring
Department said that a special emergency response station,
the first of its kind in the Middle East, was being
established near Kuwait's Shuaiba Port to monitor marine
pollution and address environmental problems caused by oil
slicks. Should oil or other toxic agents be released in the
Gulf, the EPA has contracted a $1 million Canadian boat to
collect and dispose of dead fish, in an effort to protect the
remaining sea population.

AIR
---


12. Dr. Sarawi said EPA headquarters serves as the hub for
monitoring Kuwait's air quality, including rapid
identification of any foreign substances entering the
atmosphere. The EPA relies on six fixed stations located in
industrial, urban, and desert areas throughout country, which
have been taking readings every five minutes over the last 15
years on the level of pollutants in the air. Three mobile
labs roam Kuwait taking similar samples, as well as noting
deviations in the weather. EPA Director of Air Pollution Dr.
Saud Al-Rashid told local press that the GOK is working to
"enhance its efforts to counter any hazardous situation in
Kuwait."



13. Toward this end, Dr. Salim Al-Hajraf of KISR recently
unveiled a real time response model designed to address
environmental pollution in any part of the country. Dr.
Al-Hajraf said the computerized model acquires information on
pollution in a given place, compares data on gases in the
atmosphere, and transfers the findings to the EPA's central
data bank, where experts determine the best way to address
the pollution. One shortcoming, Dr. Sarawi noted, is that
the EPA does not possess equipment necessary to recognize
chemical or biological agents, and must rely on American and
Czech specialists to share such information. Should Iraq
launch missiles into Kuwait, the GOK has established an alarm
system to notify people on what safety measures they should
follow, such as taking cover in one of the many shelters
dispersed throughout the country.



--------------------------


PROPERLY PREPARED?


--------------------------





14. On March 1, Kuwait's Minister of Justice Ahmed
Al-Abdullah said during a seminar titled "Security of
Citizens under the Present Circumstances" that the GOK has
made adequate preparations to face any emergency in the event
of hostilities. On the environmental front, Dr. Sarawi said
in a meeting last week attended by public and private
enterprises that the EPA is now ready to meet any disaster in
Kuwait. This week the Emergency Response Committee plans to
issue more than 5,000 copies of an 80-page magazine called
"Our Environment," which will carry features on chemical and
biological weapons, preparations for emergency shelters, and
other precautionary advise.



15. The EPA has also appointed an official spokesman to
coordinate with the media and to inform the public of
developments, as well as providing three hotline numbers
manned 24 hours a day to field questions. Nevertheless, EPA
officials have their doubts whether most Kuwaitis are
properly preparing themselves for future events. Beyond
military personnel, only a small percentage of people own gas
masks, nor do they have adequate protection or supplies at
their homes, Dr. Sarawi said. His deputy Al-Rashoud added:
"Everyone here is putting his faith in God and America. They
figure the US Military can deal with the worst problems, so
why should they care?"



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





17. Despite typical early inertia, the GOK has finally begun
paying attention to the potential threat posed by Saddam
Hussein reaping revenge on Kuwait through its fragile and
vulnerable environment. The Emergency Response Committee has
made strides coordinating key players in this effort,
including inviting Post to participate in its next
inter-agency planning meeting. As in most other security
matters, Kuwait will need to rely heavily on the US and
others to protect its environment in the face of an Iraqi
attack. It is encouraging, however, to see the Kuwaitis
cooperating in this respect to support the greater US cause,
as they have done consistently in other areas of concern.
JONES