Raw sewage seeping off Beirut coastline, and dump trucks heading straight for the sea, is the “catch of the day” in Lebanon.
Marine pollution in Lebanon is becoming so severe these days that local fishermen are catching more garbage in their nets than fish. An article on thenews site Inter Press Service said that Lebanon’s 6,500 fishermen are having with the increasing problem of coastal and marine pollution being caused by large amounts of garbage and other forms of pollution finding its way into the sea. Political ambivalence is to blame.
Abdallah Mokad, one of these Lebanese trying to make his living from the sea, said sadly: “We are hauling in more garbage than fish these days. Much of the waste that gets entangled in our nets comes from the Costa Brava dumping ground, which leads out into the sea. This is illegal but waste truck owners enjoy the protection of politicians.’’
Political ambivalence, which prevents any strong action being taken by the government against those violating the laws that are on the books against dumping of garbage into the sea has resulted in the present situation, picked up by Green Prophet when we reported the large garbage mound off the coast of Sidon.
Today, the Sidon garbage mound is now so large that ships in the vicinity can “smell it before you can see it.”
The IPS article notes that Lebanese fishermen used to bring in daily catches of as much as 50 kg of fish such as Sultan Brahim, a local species of snapper, plus several kgs of shrimp.
Now, the catches are much smaller, with only a few kgs of fish and less than a kg of shrimp, among the shreds of plastic material and other garbage that gets caught in the nets. Besides garbage, oil spills, raw sewage, and various forms of industrial wastes is making this part of the Eastern Mediterranean increasingly devoid of fish and other marine life, including birds.
Lebanon’s sectarian governmental mixture, that is becoming increasingly influenced by both Syria and Hizbollah, doesn’t seem to have the power or desire to do much to clean up the country’s growing pollution problem.
Although lawmakers met last May in order to establish “environmental police, courts, a prosecutor’s office … and trained environmental prosecutors,” little has been done concerning these as the country now enters March, 2010.
Besides the pollution problems caused by human sewage and garbage, damage from oil spills, most particularly as a result of Israeli air raids during the 34 day war in 2006, has resulted in substantial environmental damage from as much as 45,000 metric tons of oil seeping into the sea.
Damage to Lebanon caused by the Israel war with the Hezbollah in Summer, 2006. Image via obbino.
Another, much more recent oil spill occurred when the Panamanian ship Danny F II sank last December 19 in stormy waters about 12 miles off the coast of Tripoli.To make matters worse, the ship was carrying 10, 224 sheep and 17,932 head of cattle, whose carcasses are feared to have attracted sharks to the area, further unbalancing the normal marine life in the area.
Twenty-six crew members are also still unaccounted for and presumed to have become shark food, along with the livestock.
Ali Darwich, environmental and agricultural specialist and general secretary of the non-government environmental organization Green Line said there are 8 major dumping sites in Lebanon, with the one near Tyre, Saida, being the most notable.
“Some two million Lebanese people live along the sea shore and the household and industrial wastes they produce are spilling directly into the water. One has to keep in mind that only one treatment plant exists in Lebanon, and it is responsible only for removing large particles from the sewage system and not important pollutants, such as heavy metal”.
Israel, whose Mediterranean coastline is also becoming more and more polluted (especially in the Haifa Bay area), Syria above and Turkey above that, has no doubt already received a portion of Lebanon’s coastal pollution. The question is how much? And how can activists from all countries join together to stop this atrocity?
More articles on Lebanese pollution:
Sidon’s Garbage dump Creating Eyesore and “Smell sore” for Entire Region
Lebanon’s Beaches Become Trash Dumps as More Sewage Poured Into Sea
“Bird’s Eye View” Shows Raw Sewage off Lebanon’s Coast