January 21, 1991. This is the day the Persian Gulf suffered from possibly the largest oil spill to date. However, the oil spill did not only affect the gulf. Animals, humans, ecosystems, and biodiversity were all impacted as a result. This act, inflicted as a war strategy by the Iraqi’s, is the cause of mass deterrence to the environment in the area. Although tremendous progress has been made in an effort to clean the Gulf War oil spill, there are still several efforts that must be made in order to maximize the fixation.
In this paper, there are several aspects of the spill to be analyzed, including the facts of the spill, the effects on biodiversity and the environment, and the resources exhausted after the spill. Firstly, the spill consequently generated several outcomes. Amid threats from the United Kingdom to attack Iraq, the Iraqi military tenaciously opened valves containing oil next to the sea, and sent tankers into the gulf for the purpose of dumping oil barrels. In total, eight million barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf, marking this oil spill as one of the worst in history.
In addition, approximately 600 oil wells were set on fire. Anywhere from 240,000 to 720,000 meters cubed of oil covered the masses of the gulf. This action derived from the tension between Iraq and the United States over Sadaam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The day the spill began, the United States immediately accused the Iraqi’s of “environmental terrorism”, which was rebutted by the Iraqi’s stating the United States provoked the spill (Apple). As a result, the Kuwaiti and Saudi citizens invoked a deep hatred for Sadaam Hussein and wanted him dead.
The ongoing war delayed the clean up, allowing the spill to increase and evolve. The damage was so excessive that it was affirmed that the amount of labour required to clean the spill was unavailable at a certain point in time (Apple). All in all, the facts of the Gulf War oil spill display numerous things, including an abnormal, cruel motive which resulted in catastrophe in the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, the oil spill was at fault for several environmental detriments ranging from humans to forests. The first element of disaster to be analyzed is wildlife in and around the gulf.
It was stated that “birds were the most severely affected group of organisms, and at least three thousand wintering seabirds, mainly cormorants and grebes died in the immediate aftermath of the spill between January and April 1991” (Poonian). Moreover, it was also discovered that seven species of marine turtles became endangered, as their habitat has become severely damaged, and the oil spill influenced a temperature alteration which distressed the sex ratios of turtles hatching in the aftermath” (Poonian). All this, however, is not all the damage ingested, as more than just animals were affected.
Sea corals, the home to numerous species of the animals, were affected in five separate regions; Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arabic Emirates and Oman. Research states that “evidence has been [accumulated] which indicates various detrimental effects of oil pollution (especially chronic oil spills) on coral reproduction, growth rate, colonization capacities, feeding and behavioural responses” (Pashaei et. Al). This amplifies the negative connotation associated with the Gulf War oil spill, as the habitats of many species have evidently been damaged.
Casualties include dugongs, bottlenose dolphins, humpback dolphins, shrimp, shellfish, etc. In addition to this, the oil spill played a large role in damaging the mangrove forests. An asset to biodiversity in Iran, the mangrove forests suffered profoundly as a result of the oil spill. The habitat of crustaceans and other living things in the forest were damaged as a result of oil seeping through the soil and sticking to crucial aspects of their homes and diets. The trees in the forest were involved in this devastation as well.
This was described as “oil [shaping] a sticky layer on the trunk of the trees blocks the air passages hence blocking the oxy-gen and destroying the trees” (Poonian). Perceptibly, the Gulf War oil spill has had a great effect on the environment. The examples listed do not exhibit the complete detriment attributed to the environment as a result of this oil spill. Many species decreased consequently, whether it was direct or indirect. Some were killed directly after the spill, and those who could not adapt to the altered environment also died.
Conclusively, the effects on biodiversity and the environment are clear, as the Gulf War oil spill resulted in deaths and damaged ecosystems. An oil spill of this level demanded an extreme amount of resources for cleanup. Initially, as previously said, it was reported that the amount of labour required to clean the spill was unavailable (Apple). This is a testament to the enormous amounts of oil spilled into the gulf. Furthermore, it was estimated that 700 million US dollars had gone towards cleaning up the spill (McClain). This went towards a bevy of things, which began with slowing and eventually stopping the spill.
United States experts were sent to the spill region to assess the environmental damage, and to plan the containment and clean up of the oil spill. Once this occurred, there we several measures put in place to combat the oil spill and restore the gulf to the best possible condition. Firstly, through the use of smart bombs, the open pipelines were blocked and could not release further oil into the gulf (Maclean). This method was pricy and also created further environmental damage, although it was not as injurious as the oil spill. Once the spill halted, oil had to be extracted from the gulf.
In order to store the extracted oil, Maclean states that artificial ponds were created. In addition, “Booms and skimmers were used to keep the oil away from the desalination plants, which provided drinking water to residents in the area” (Maclean). This further demonstrates the tortuous damage applied by the spill, as it had the potential to decrease available drinking water. Years of extraction, storage, and other means along with millions of dollars were exhausted in this clean up. Although this was reported as one of the worst oil spills in history, the outcome was not as bad as it potentially may have been because of the cleanup effort.
Approximately half the oil spilled evaporated, while two to three million barrels washed ashore and millions of barrels were further recovered in the cleanup efforts. In 2008, a research paper conducted by German and Saudi officials on the effects of oil pollution in the Persian Gulf concluded that by 1994, fish and bird populations reverted to pre-spill levels (Tutton). Conclusively, although the spill was immense, cleanup efforts and mass resource dedication resulted in an effective cleanup of the Persian Gulf. January 21, 1991 was clearly a day which sparked destruction on many fronts.
The Gulf War oil spill is renowned as one of the largest oil spills to date. This was not an accidental spill; the Iraqi military spilled the oil as a war tactic in order to ward off the United States and the United Kingdom. No direct actions to dissuade future instances of this sort were set in place, although the public condemning and financial burden may play a role in future deterrence. The damage was quite extensive, as eight million barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf, along with 600 oil wells being set aflame.
The Persian Gulf, along with humans, animals, the environment, and the biodiversity of the gulf were affected by the oil spill. Trees were unable to breath; animals were unable to survive in their natural habitats, and humans were left to deal with the mid-air chemicals all as a result. Resources expended include approximately 700 million US dollars, and items such as smart bombs, booms and skinners. In retrospect, this paper analyzed numerous features of the spill, including the facts of the spill, the effects on biodiversity and the environment, and the resources exhausted after the spill. January 21, 1991.