As I indicated to the Deputy in my written reply of 20 March to his question on the environmental damage in Kuwait, I believe that Ireland can assist most effectively with the alleviation of the very serious consequences for the environment in the Gulf area as part of the co-ordinated action by the European Community. Following a meeting between Community Environment Ministers and the Minister for Health of Bahrain in Brussels on 18 March, the Environment Council asked the Commission to pursue existing initiatives and to undertake new ones aimed at increasing Community support for the authorities in the region with responsibility for cleaning up the oil spillage. It also asked the Commission to examine the possibility of co-ordinating any possible assistance which the European oil industry could contribute in dealing with the burning oil wells. As a result of this request, the Community subsequently decided to allocate up to 15 million ECU to finance various environmental actions in the Gulf.
A significant contribution to the work of cleaning up the oil spillage in the Gulf is also made by the Community's Pollution Task Force. Meetings of the task force are held regularly in Brussels to plan and administer assistance from the Community.
The Community continues to monitor the situation regarding the damage to the environment in the Gulf, in close liaison with the countries in the region and the other international agencies involved. It is, however, too early to quantify precisely at this stage the damage to the environment which will arise in the Gulf as much of the necessary action required to remedy the damage done, including the extinguishing of the fires in the oil wells, will need to continue for quite some time.