“You smell it before you can see it,” says Mohammad who talks of Lebanon’s utterly toxic dumping ground by the sea. Image: BBC.
We’ve written about Israel’s infamous garbage (sh*t) mountain and national “landmark” Hirira outside of Tel Aviv.
We learn that another large regional garbage mound, the Sidon Rubbish Dump or the Saida dump is attracting a lot of “attention” off Lebanon’s sea coast these days – and the “attention” is all bad. Or smelly, rather, reports the BBC: “It’s horrible isn’t it? You smell it before you can see it,” Mohammad, a fisherman, as his fishing boat nears it. It takes another 10 minutes for the source of the stench to appear- a giant mountain of rubbish, as tall as a four floor building. It seems to rise out of the sea outside one of Lebanon’s most ancient cities.
The Saida dump has been there since the 1982 war with Israel, when remains of buildings and other property destroyed during the war were dumped there. Later, personal garbage and other rubbish was dumped there as well, including items thrown out from local hospitals.
Mohammad, who blames the dump on his thinning fish catches, says the eyesore is also very dangerous from an ecological standpoint. Last year 150 tons from the mound ripped off and sank into the sea. Today some brave the stench and use it as a means to scrape together a living. But be careful, swimming near the Sidon dump can put you in the hospital; and avoid the medical syringes washing out with the tide.
In addition to construction wastes, medical trash, and garbage, all kinds of toxic materials get dumped there too. But according to people such as Mohammad Hamdan, a Palestinian refugee who makes a bare living by scavenging for bottles metals, and plastic materials in the dump the hospital wastes are the worst as “it full of syringes, blood, human flesh – even kidneys,” he claims.
Although solutions to this ecological nightmare are available, including moving the dump inland to another location (where it will pollute the ground water in the new location) the Sidon dump is now partially in the sea and could contaminate large sections of the Mediterranean coastline.
As noted in another article, at the environmental website Spacedaily.com Lebanon looses as much as $500 million or EU 350 million annually to pollution, much of it due to losses in the health, tourism and agricultural industries. Garbage mounds like the one outside Sidon create their share of this pollution, and contribute to global warming in Lebanon, which may cause temperatures to rise by as much as 2 degrees C in the next 40 years and by as much as 5 degrees C by the end of the century.
As to the future of the Sidon garbage mound, a lack of “political will,” due to the country’s divisive political system and weakness in the central government, there is no way of knowing if the mound will ever be moved. The plan (to move it) is in place, and money is there; the only thing that’s missing is a political decision. But until these politicians start thinking about the benefit of people and the ecosystem, this issue will not be solved,” says Mr Garabed Kazanjian, a campaigner for Greenpeace.