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Lebanon Polluted Due to Syrian Refugees, Israeli Bombs: Environment Ministry

Dec 07

Lebanon’s Environment Ministry does a good job dealing with the country’s major environmental issues, a representative of the ministry said Wednesday, claiming that these issues stem mainly from Syrian refugees and Israel’s 2006 bombing campaign.

“Lebanon faces major environmental problems resulting from global conflicts in the region,” Dr. Joseph Asmar said at the United Nations Environment Assembly, according to a ministry statement.

“The biggest issue Lebanon suffers from is the pollution caused by the Israeli aggression in July 2006, which led to a large oil spill that polluted the beach and the sea,” Asmar said, from the conference in Kenya.

“The second problem is the issue of pollution resulting from the Syrian exodus. The proportion of displaced is more than 37 percent of the population, which is the highest rate in the world,” he said.

Asmar then called on the assembly to develop a plan to deal with the environmental impact of refugees.

Asmar failed to mention that Lebanon has had no solid waste management plan since the Civil War, during which the state broke down and informal dumpsites began sprouting across the country.

The waste problem has festered since, repeatedly spilling onto the country’s streets – with the most recent iteration in 2015.

A report released Friday by Human Rights Watch argued that the Lebanese government’s failure to stamp out the practice of waste burning critically endangers the health of residents, violating basic human rights as well as international conventions.

Based on data from the Environment Ministry and the United Nations Development Program, 941 open dumps have been recorded across the country as of 2017, including 617 municipal solid waste dumps.

The burning of trash is a widespread phenomenon, with more than 150 dumps burned at least once a week on average, HRW found.

The title of the study – “As If You Are Inhaling Your Death: The Health Risks of Burning Waste in Lebanon” – left no doubt as to the bleakness of its findings.

Following the report’s publication, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib on Monday denied the existence of a trash crisis in Lebanon. “We are not experiencing a trash crisis,” Khatib said in an interview with OTV. “There is no fear that the trash will come back to the streets.”

The minister said that “we should not alarm the people ... with a problem that does not exist.'

albawaba