||REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION|
|Chapter 1: Regional Environmental Management Frameworks|
1.1 Coastline preservation
Along the East Mediterranean coastline, land and sea resources are closely interrelated. Land use and irrigation, industrial activities, tourist development and other activities affect the quality of coastal soil, coastal waters, plant and animal life, the natural landscape and the marine environment. Activities of the oil industry render the region sensitive to spills and other accidents.
The East Mediterranean coastline has been steadily receding over the past two decades, by between 10-25 meters, brought about by the cessation of sand flow from the Nile due to construction of the Aswan High Dam and by marinas and breakwaters which have been built along the shore. Protecting the shoreline from further destruction necessitates coordination and cooperation between all the parties involved.
A comprehensive, integrated approach to coastal zone management is required to ensure sustainable economic development as well as environmental protection of the Mediterranean basin. Planning and management of the basin should incorporate the experience of other semi-enclosed seas to avoid the recurrence of environmental pollution and resource degradation and to promote initiatives for sustainable development to further the mutual benefit of the countries bordering its shores.
The three parties Israel, Egypt and the PA could follow models of regional cooperation for coastal management practiced in other areas of the world, such as the UNEP programs for the Caribbean and principles cited in Seto Inland Sea Declaration.
1.2 Environmental Management of the Mediterranean
It is suggested that a Joint Committee for the Environmental Management of the Mediterranean be established to develop a multi-lateral regional environmental protection program, with the following objectives:
- To develop and direct a multi-lateral program of preventing accidental and operational marine pollution, including the monitoring of waste dumping by ships in the Mediterranean ports as well as the deployment of clean-up vessels for all major port areas.
- To establish a multi-lateral emergency response program to handle chemical or oil spills in the ports of Port Said, Gaza and Ashdod.
- To develop a coastal environmental management plan based on evaluation of the suitability and sensitivity of resources to impacts of development alternatives, culminating in the integration of national plans into an overall regional plan (as with the Gulf of Aqaba).
- To monitor the East Mediterranean environment – air, land, inland water and sea pollution levels, as well as nitrates from fertilizers which enter the sea and soil.
Initiated by the European Investment Bank and the World Bank in 1988, this program was designed to help Mediterranean countries cope with and reduce the effects of environmental degradation. Four priority areas requiring common actions were identified:
- solid and hazardous waste management;
- integrated water resources management;
- coastal zone management; and
- marine pollution.
The two Banks initiated a call for the Technical Assistance Program with funding from the European Investment Bank, the European Union, United Nations Development Program and the World Bank in addition to support from several bilateral donors.
METAP aims to address the environmental policy and institutional and investment-related needs at the regional, national and local levels, through such activities as project identification, strategic planning including preparation of National Environmental Action Plans, policy analysis and priority setting, and institutional strengthening and capacity building.
The first three year cycle program (1990-1992), with funding commitments of $ 13.1 million, promoted and facilitated 58 innovative action plans in some 20 Mediterranean countries, and has been able to sustain a coordinated effort on the part of donors and the partners while achieving concrete results. One of the most notable achievements of METAP is that the region has maintained a steady focus on the priority issues defined at the inception of the program.
The second three year cycle (1993-1995) has committed funding of $ 12.8 million for 36 activities, with a focus on environmental communication, environmental mediation and negotiation, and environmental impact assessment. Other spheres to be emphasized during this cycle include water resources, urban environmental management and institutional development, all the while stressing domestic capacity building.
Future activities of METAP should focus on the investments that have been identified, reformulating them as proposals to external investors, other development agencies and donors for financing. Furthermore, identified potential investors and donors should be brought together at periodic round table conferences to pursue commitment to implementing the projects in the region. Efforts should be made to increase the role played by the beneficiary countries themselves. Yet another focus is the identification of green issues and their funding, both by donors which will have to be located, and by other sources such as the Global Environment Facility. Ultimately METAP should aim to expand its geographic coverage to include the Gulf region.
* Based on "Middle East and North Africa Environmental Strategy" World Bank February 1995.
1.3 Subregional Emergency Contingency Plan for combating marine pollution
The Mediterranean Sea is and will remain a major route for transporting oil and gas. The continual presence of the risk of oil spills and other forms of pollution imposes on the Mediterranean coastal states and territories a need to organize and prepare responses to accidental marine pollution. To be most effective, emergency preparedness and response efforts must be made at the regional level.
The Diplomatic conference on Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response held in 1990 adopted the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC). The OPRC is the first globally applicable legal instrument addressing the problem of accidental oil pollution of the sea; it includes provisions for the establishment of regional preparedness and response systems.
The Government of Cyprus, Egypt and Israel agreed to adopt a Subregional Contingency Plan for responding to major marine pollution incidents, affecting or likely to affect the territorial sea, coasts and related interest of one the three countries. The implementation of this plan incorporates the following actions:
- develop preparedness measures and detection systems, including a communications network between the parties;
- promote and implement subregional cooperation in oil pollution contingency planning, prevention, control and clean-up operations;
- establish measures to control spreading and minimize environmental hazards;
- develop and implement training courses and organize practice exercises to train personnel charged with prevention and response tasks;
- develop procedures to increase regional cooperation.
The plan can be activated by any of the parties in cases in which:
- the severity of the environmental incident is greater than can be handled by the activating party alone;
- the incident involves more than one party;
- the incident occurs outside a party’s area of responsibility but poses a reasonable threat for the territorial sea, coast or other related interests of that party.
Operation and Organization of the Contingency Plan
Operation of the program is entrusted to the Operational Authorities designated by each participating country. The Authorities will meet at least once a year to discuss issues relating to implementation of the plan. They are also responsible for informing the other parties as to changes in the local operational framework and designated emergency response facilities and equipment. Joint training courses and exercises will be held periodically to improve the level of coordination between the response teams, to test the command structure of the Plan, expose personnel to new equipment and response techniques, and to intensify communication between personnel in each country.
Should the need arise for emergency response, command of joint operations will fall on the country in whose area of responsibility the incident occurred. Should the oil spill spread or shift to other jurisdictions, leadership of the operation will shift accordingly.
Emergency Response Centers and Support Teams
Each party will set up at least one emergency response center which will be manned 24 hours a day. The center will be equipped with an appropriate communications system (telefax or telex, telephone and radio, VHF channels) and have the facilities needed to be used as an Operational Command in case of joint response operations.
In addition, each country will set up national support teams composed of representatives from relevant public authorities, national services and industry to provide assistance in case of activation of the plan and consultancy services regarding techniques for combating oil pollution, navigation safety marine biology and fisheries, and other related fields. In addition, these teams will coordinate activities with other public and private sector agents that could provide personnel, equipment, logistic support, immigration services, should it be required as a result of emergency situations.
Extension of the Contingency Plan
To date this plan is limited to three parties, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus. It can be extended to include the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Syria as well.
1.4. Sand Dune Stabilization
The large sand dunes hemming much of the East Mediterranean coastal rim are one of the most impressive ecological elements of this part of the basin. At the same time vast amounts of sand scattered by high-velocity winds can cause problems to both agrarian and urban communities. Treated waste water from adjacent urban centers can be used to cultivate certain dune sites in a way which will not only impede dune mobility but will contribute to the reclamation of grazing areas.
The Gulf of Aqaba, located at the northern end of the Red Sea, is the northermost tropical sea ecosystem. Its oxygen-rich water has a constant temperature of 21-24 deg. C. The Gulf supports a dense population of more than 100 species of corals, 800 species of fish and hundreds of species of crustaceans and molluscs in a fragile environmental equilibrium.
Sea currents in the Gulf run counter clockwise along the eastern shores of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, returning westward along the northern tip of the Gulf, then southward along the Israeli and Eyptian shores. Prevailing winds are north-northeasterly. The climate is a typical desert one: very low precipitation and over 340 clear sunny days a year. Winter storms affect the Gulf on rare occasions.
The natural resources and the climate of the Gulf of Aqaba make the area very attractive to scientists, sport divers and tourists from all over the world. Many hotels and resorts have been developed by Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
Eilat and Aqaba are principal ports, with major oil terminals moving millions of tons of oil every year, phosphate, potash and bromide export facilities, naval bases, commercial ports, marinas and pleasure boats, bathing beaches, and water sports. Phosphate disposal from ship loading operations, frequent small to moderate oil spills, sewage discharges and thermal pollution from coastal industries have severely eroded coral life, particularly in the nothern reaches. These activities place stress on the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf, and threaten to damage irreparably its most precious asset.
Pursuant to Article 23 of the Peace Treaty signed on October 26, 1994 between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, an Agreement on Aqaba-Eilat, including special reference to the environmentally-sound management of the Gulf of Aqaba is being prepared at the time of writing this report. It signals a further step in the developing bilateral cooperation on this critical issue, and establishes the framework for the sustainable development of the Gulf of Aqaba.
2.1 The need for environmental management
The Gulf of Aqaba harbors enormous development potential. Conflicts concerning the use of resources and impacts of activities are intensive and the risks of trans-boundary pollution could well damage growth of the tourist industry in the region. Domestic or industrial pollution could threaten the health of coral reefs along the Gulf Shores, and habitats which support unique fish populations.
Land and sea resources are closely interrelated, and land use, industrial activities, tourist development and other activities affect the quality of coastal lands, coastal waters, the ecosystems, the natural landscape and the marine environment.
A comprehensive, integrated approach to coastal zone management is needed to ensure sustainable economic development as well as environmental protection of the Gulf area. Such an approach is reflected in Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Plan developed by Jordan in conjunction with the World Bank. This project will facilitate the cessation and prevention of marine pollution and protect biodiversity, marine and coastal ecosystems throughout the Red Sea area. It is being prepared in parallel to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Strategic Action Programme (SAP) and complies with Annex IV of the peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan. The proposed program will provide an important sub-regional activity and complement other environmental activities in the Red Sea region, such as the Egypt Red Sea Coastal Zone Management and the Yemen Marine Ecosystem projects.
2.2 Objectives of the Plan
The Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Action Plan (GAEAP) proposes 23 actions in six categories: legal and regulatory framework, institutional strengthening, infrastructure investments; protected area management; monitoring and applied research; and public awareness and environmental education. 11 of the 23 actions are classified as top priority actions, including measures to strengthen the institutions and implement curative and preventative transboundary environmental issues. Specific project objectives include:
- develop and enforce the legal framework and regulations for the control of transboundary pollution;
- develop regional collaborative mechanisms for environmental management;
- provide safeguards against oil pollution of aquifers and the marine environment;
- establish guidelines for development of the coastal zone;
- assess the effects of wastewater seepage on the quality and level of the transboundary groundwater table;
- implement a plan to control transboundary solid waste impacts on the marine and coastal water resource systems;
- prepare and implement site-specific plans for the conservation of transboundary eco-systems.
2.3 Project Components and Estimated Investment Requirements
The Plan’s component projects address the major regulatory and institutional arrangements required to ensure effective transboundary environmental management:
- Capacity building for transboundary environmental management, including the establishment of collaborative mechanisms for coordination between national environmental authorities in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, establishment of information technology systems (G.I.S.) and monitoring programs for both marine and on-shore ecosystems.
- Implementation of a legislative and regulatory framework for the control and management of transboundary pollution, including setting up pollution control guidelines to ensure preservation of marine water quality, promotion of coral reef stability and prevent further erosion of the transboundary Wadi Araba aquifer.
- Coastal zone management, including implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines, designed to minimize the adverse transboundary environmental impacts associated with hotel and resort development, particularly in newly developed areas such as Aqaba’s southern coast.
- Development of a marine nature reserve, to be implemented within the framework of a tri-partite collaboration between Egypt Israel and Jordan and to include zoning, installation of required facilities, hiring and training of park staff and development of public awareness promotions.
- Management of waste oil from land and marine transport, including assessment of oil pollution hazards to transboundary aquifers and promotion of waste-oil (from ships and vehicles) recovery and reuse.
- Protection of the Wadi Araba aquifer, including assessment of wastewater seepage from the Aqaba municipal wastewater plant and measures, such as wastewater reclamation, designed to prevent pollution in the recharge zone.
- Integrated transboundary solid waste management, including the development of a regional action plan for marine and land-based solid waste collection, recycling, and disposal, requisition of equipment and hiring of sanitation personnel.
- Linkage of coastal and desert ecosystems, designed primarily to protect the Wadi Rum desert bordering Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This component can be extended to include other adjacent areas such as the Arava and the Sinai Peninsula.
- Human resource development (HRD). Joint programs for HRD should be
developed especially in the field of professional training and public awareness. Emphasis should be placed on the employment of advanced methods of surveillance, monitoring, control and measurement.
2.4 Joint committee for the Environmental Management of the Gulf
A Joint Committee for the Environmental Management of the Gulf was established to develop a bi-lateral regional environmental protection program. This program may serve in the future as a basis for extended regional cooperation, involving Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The Joint Committee’s suggested objectives are:
- To develop and direct a bilateral program of prevention of accidental and operational pollution of the marine environment;
- To establish a bilateral emergency response program in case of chemicals or oil-spills in the ports of Eilat and Aqaba. This should be coordinated with the regional contingency program established under the multi-lateral peace talks on the environment.
- To develop a coastal environment management plan based on evaluation of the suitability and sensitivity of resources to impacts of development alternatives. The plan should be developed in three stages:
- Development of mutual guidelines for coastal zone management, based on existing experience;
- Development of a national coastal environmental management plan by each of the two countries, based on the agreed guidelines;
- Integration of the two compatible national plans into a regional one.
- To develop and operate monitoring programs of the Gulf environment (air, land, water and sea).
- To initiate and guide joint environmental and aquaculture research
programs in the Gulf.
Cooperation would be required at both professional and decision- making levels. Therefore it is suggested that the committee consist of:
- Land use planners, information analysts, ecologists and marine specialists;
- Specialists in tourist, industrial and port development;
- Representatives of national bodies responsible for environmental management and physical planning.
Table No. 1:
Estimated required investment in Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Action Plan (thousand U.S. dollars)
|Capacity building for transboundary management||850|
|Legislative & regulatory framework||150|
|Coastal zone management||200|
|Marine nature reserve||700|
|Waste oil management||150|
|Wadi Aqaba aquifer||100|
|Solid waste management||300|
|Desert Eco-systems conservation||350|
Environmental Program for the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden*
The Red Sea and its connecting water bodies, the Gulfs of Suez, Aqaba and Aden, form an international water body of 440,000 km3, shared by eight countries. Since the opening of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea is one of the busiest shipping lanes. The first initiative for regional cooperation on the Red Sea was made under the auspices of Arab League Education, Cultural and Scientific Cooperation (ALESCO). In 1976 the Program for the Environment of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) was adopted, which aimed at conserving the marine environment and its ecosystem while developing natural resources through a regional approach. PERSGA started an Action Plan for the conservation of the Marine Environment, a convention on regional conservation and a protocol for combating oil pollution, as well as providing advisory services to participating countries.
PERSGA may serve as a good basis for enhancing regional environmental cooperation in the Red Sea Gulf and has already established the organizational and legal frameworks for such cooperation. However, in recent years PERSGA was not very active and it did not adapt itself to the new global trends, especially after the Rio Summit and the Middle East peace process. It could follow the example of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), which proved to be a very successful program of regional action. PERSGA should be revised and amended so it will incorporate the concepts of sustainable development, address issues of coastal zone management, and following the agreements concluded between Israel and its neighbors, it should be revised to include all the riparian counties in the Gulf and only them.
In 1992 the Global Environment Facility (GEF) agreed to finance a grant for $8.05 million to protect the Red Sea, including Egypt’s Red Sea Coastal and Marine Resource Management Project ($4.75 million) for the protection of marine biological biodiversity; Yemen’s Protection of Marine Ecosystems of the Red Sea Coast ($2.8 million) to develop strategies to control and reduce pollution and ensure protection of the coastal ecosystems, and a Red Sea regional framework program ($0.5 million) to assist PERSGA in coordinating two national projects and in planning and coordinating similar regional activities. The GEF also assisted Jordan with development of the Gulf Action Plan, and with the objective of creating regional cooperation among the littoral countries to protect the marine environment.
These programs are the beginning of a broader, concerted effort to solve existing and future environmental problems for the Red Sea. An urgent need still exists for a more effective and responsive environmental management program which will match existing and future development plans with the need to preserve endemic wildlife and marine biodiversity.
Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME)
Established in 1982 with offices in Kuwait, ROPME has over the past seven years started several programs related to environment assessment, environmental management, legal issues and institutional and financial arrangements. ROPME was instrumental in the oil clean-up and it played a major role in the preparation of a rehabilitation program to mitigate war-induced pollution and to reverse ecological degradation.
* Based on "Middle East and North Africa Environmental Strategy" World Bank, February 1995.
Upper Gulf of Aqaba Oil Spill Contingency Project*
4.1 Introduction and overview
The Gulf of Aqaba has unique physical and biological features with good water quality and high biodiversity. Corals and associated fish life are major assets and the environment is highly sensitive to oil spills. Climatic conditions favor the use of mechanical clean-up equipment.
The major risks of oil spills are related to the shipping traffic. Whereas the majority of calls of cargo vessles and ferry boats are concentrated at Aqaba and Nuweiba, the oil tanker traffic almost exclusively embarks at Eilat. The contingency arrangement proposed below is based on risks of spills from present ships patterns. The future traffic is difficult to predict and may cause greater risks to the environment and alter the needs for oil spill combat equipment.
Today, an Oil Spill Combat Center exists in Eilat, capable of fighting oil spills of up to 50-60 m3. Aqaba has no dedicated oil spill equipment, but has the back-up resources needed for an Oil Spill Center. Nuweiba has neither the oil spill equipment nor the back-up resources.
The Upper Gulf of Aqaba Oil Spill Contingency project will, within a short time, lead to the establishment or upgrading of three oil spill response centers in Aqaba, Eilat and Nuweiba, adequately equipped to form the basis for immediate response to small- and medium-sized oil spills (i.e. less than 200 m3). Through cooperation among the centers, damage from larger spills will be minimized.
Ultimately the long-term perspective of the Upper Gulf of Aqaba Oil Spill Contingency Project is to improve the preparedness to combat spill of even major oil spills i.e. larger than 200 m3. This will require a coordinated combat arrangement utilizing all available resources in the region.
The Project comprises four phases:
- Project preparation
- Estabishment of Oil Spill Centers
- Elaboration of a larger, Regional Contingency Plan (based on national/local contingency plans)
- Implementation of Regional Contingency Plan (through the procurement of additional equipment and related training).
4.2 Combat strategies and equipment
Based on the assessment of risks of oil spills and vulnerability of the coastal zones in the region, the combat strategy adopted is that oil spills will be contained and recovered through the use of mechanical equipment offshore, as close as possible to the source, or deflected to less sensitive parts of the shorelines and cleaned up on the beach. Enhanced biological degradation at sea or on land should be considered.
An initial study of crude oil types transported to Eilat indicates that the use of chemical dispersants will have no or limited effect as a combat method. Thus, dispersal of oil spills is not recommended. However, in-depth analyses on effectiveness and ecological risks related to the use of dispersants are needed before a final assessment can be made. All three centers should be equipped to deal with spills of up to 200 m3.
4.3 Organizational set-up and technical coordination
The project would be headed by a Project Steering Committee with representatives from Egypt, Israel and Jordan, plus a EU representative. The Executing Agency would comprise EEAA of Egypt, Israel’s Ministry of Environment, and Jordan’s Aqaba Port Corporation, and would be responsible for national approval procedures and decision-making. Oil spill centers for implementation would be the Nuweiba Oil Spill Center, Eilat Marine Pollution Control Station, and the Aqaba Port Corporation.
4.4 Regional cooperation
Under the guidance of the Steering Committee, cooperation between the parties will take several forms:
- Estabishment of the three centers
- Ad hoc support between centers in a spill situation
- Joint drills and exercises
- Notification aod communication procedures between the parties
- Updating of sensitivity mapping
- Area coastal developments with relevance for oil spill risks
- Research and studies on technical feasibility and environmental impact of the use of chemical dispersants
- Preventive measures
The operational strategies will among other aspects rely on basic knowledge of sensitive areas along the shore. A sensitivity mapping of the Gulf of Aqaba shorelines in Jordan, Israel and Egypt is launched through US funding.
4.5 Time schedule
It is envisaged that the Oil Spill Centers can be fully operational in May 1996, at the earliest. Prior to the operation of the Centers, an initial training program will be implemented, and initial procedures for notification and communication between the parties will be agreed upon. During 1995, once technical specifications of equipment and land facilities are drawn up, they will be tendered out, and procured. Delivery and installation of the equipment is interlinekd to the timing of establishment/upgrading of the land facilities at the center sites, and will be affected by local time constraints.
Table No. 2:
Cost estimate and financing
|Item Costs 1000 ECU||Nuweiba||Aqaba||Eilat||Regional||Total|
|Equipment including freight||1,050||1,700||1,450|| 4,200
||Training (5 years)
|| 5,600 |
Financing may come from donors and local sources, with various aspects of the project funded by different bodies. The Japanese have offered to finance the costs of equipping the Jordanians while the European Union will finance the cost of equipping the Egyptians.
* This material is based on Progress Report No. 1 submitted by COWI Consultants to the Working Group on the Environment, Middle East Peace Process, Bahrain, Ocober, 1994.
The Middle East/ East Mediterranean Region Center for Sustainable Development (MECSD)
The concept of sustainable development was introduced by the UN Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 and developed in "Agenda 21" of the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Many regional organizations, such as the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development and the UN Economic Commission for Europe are currently making preparation towards encompassing the concept of sustainable development within their long-term work plans. Sustainable development was adopted as a shared creed for regional cooperation of the countries of the Middle East/ East Mediterranean region in their endorsement of the Bahrain Environmental Code of Conduct in 1994.
While the countries of the Middle East/ East Mediterranean region differ with regard to levels of economic development and natural resource endowment, they all share a number of environmental problems and socio-economic characteristics. The Middle East/ East Mediterranean region is a developing region, experiencing accelerated growth spurred by extensive development programs. Urbanization, and expanded industrial and agricultural activity has been accompanied by natural and uncontrolled pollution. Quality water is a scarce resource and encroaching desertification limits the ability of some countries to cultivate additional land resources.
These common characteristics, coupled with future plans for attaining rapid economic growth in an era of peace, place responsibility on Middle East/ East Mediterranean region governments to make rational use of natural resources both at the national and regional levels. The proposed Middle East Center for Sustainable Development (MECSD) could promote practical strategies and regional guidelines for the application of sustainable development policies by the countries of the region. It could also provide the framework for addressing environmental problems of a trans-boundary nature which require cooperation between two or more parties. Moreover, a MECSD can serve as a capacity building and training institution for decision makers and high-level professionals from all sectors of society.
5.1 The MECSD Steering Committee
The proposed MECSD will be managed by a steering committee comprised of high level official from each country or territory. It is suggested that each party be represented by two high ranking officials – one from the development sector and the other from the environmental sector. The role of this committee would be to:
- Set priority actions for the MECSD based on development plans in the region;
- Monitor major development activities in the region;
- Promote private sector involvement and awareness of sustainable development practices;
- Serve as a liaison with international forums an other regional institutions, such as the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development.
5.2 Working groups
The Steering Committee will be empowered to establish ad-hoc working groups to address special environmental issues in the region. In addition, three on-going working groups are recommended:
- A Middle East Environmental Impact Assessment Forum to promote the incorporation of environmental impact considerations into development project design. The Forum will be responsible for conducting information exchanges between the parties, coordinate EIA programs of regional importance, promote harmonization of EIA processes, and initiate training and capacity building programs.
- A Working Group on Coastal Zone Management to promote development of coastal zones based on principles of multi-disciplinary resource management. The principles established by the UNEP MAP/PAP project on the integrated planning and management of Mediterranean coastal zones can serve as a model. The group’s activities could also include the establishment of a Geographic Information System (G.I.S.) for regional coastal management.
- A Middle East Environment and Development Observatory to collect, process and assess inter-disciplinary data in real time and appraise decision makers of regional environmental and developmental trends. Morocco, Tunisia and Israel have already begun establishment of national observatories and the Blue Plan Regional Activity Center of the Mediterranean Action Plan is presently working on setting up the Mediterranean Environment and Development Observatory (MEDO). This Mediterranean Observatory can serve as the cornerstone for of a Middle East Observatory, whose activities would complement those of the MEDO.