Kuwait to clean up contamination of 1990 invasion

KUWAIT (Reuters) - OPEC member Kuwait plans to launch a project to clean up what it calls “oil lakes”, referring to ground contamination resulting from crude spills during the Iraqi invasion of the Gulf Arab state in 1990.

“Within the state of Kuwait there is an estimated 60 million cubic meters of contaminated soil that needs to be remediated,” Kuwait Oil Co (KOC) Chairman Sami al-Rushaid told a news conference on Monday.

Kuwait extinguished the last of many oil well fires in the north of the Gulf state in November 1991, eight months after it was liberated from an invasion by neighboring Iraq.

But hundreds of oil lakes also were formed as a result of crude spills from the 1990 invasion.

“These were initially called oil lakes, referring to the spills caused from extinguishing the fires at the oil wells. Now after all these years most of these lakes have turned into contaminated soil,” said Redha al-Hasan, program manager for Kuwait Environmental Rehabilitation Program.

State explorer KOC said it had set a February 14 deadline for pre-qualification applications to hire a project management consultant.

“The total amount for environmental rehabilitation projects that will be executed by KOC from the environmental reparation money exceeds $2 billion,” Hasan said. The United Nations allocated $3 billion of environmental reparations to Kuwait, he added.

Rushaid did not specify a timeframe or cost for the project.

Iraq pays 5 percent of its oil revenues as war reparations, most of it to Kuwait, despite Iraq’s calls for a renegotiation of those payments so it can use more of its oil money for needed development projects.

Iraq still owes Kuwait nearly $22 billion in reparations, Western diplomats have said.

Reporting by Eman Goma; Editing by Jane Baird