"CDR Plans to Establish Waste Dumps Threaten Environment"

Greenpeace Press Release

20 December 1996

The Greenpeace Mediterranean office today criticised plans of Lebanon's powerful Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) to set up soon waste dumps along the coast and in the Beqaa valley as a serious threat to the environment.

The CDR, which is a sort of super ministry planning and financing all major reconstruction projects in Lebanon, recently decided to establish one waste dump on the coast of Tripoli and one near the village of Bar Elias in the Beqaa valley. More waste dumps and a number of municipal and hospital waste incinerators are planned in other parts of the country.

"It is a myth to believe that by digging a hole in the ground one can dump waste in it and then forget," said in Beirut Fouad Hamdan of the Greenpeace Mediterranean Office. "Toxic substances in these landfills strike back in the form of leachate, that is toxic fluid leaking into ground water reservoirs. Even if plastic sheetings and concrete layers are used as a sealing under landfills, they will eventually deteriorate and crack."

"Greenpeace supports the people of Bar Elias who reject the planned destruction of their environment and the pollution of their ground water reservoirs. We urge the city council of Tripoli to divert the planned funds from the planned waste dump to a waste reduction, reuse and recycling policy," Hamdan said.

The CDR has been ignoring the problem of toxic waste mixed with the estimated 4,000 tons of household waste generated every day in Lebanon. The CDR also does not tackle the issue of 326,000 tons of industrial toxic waste generated in Lebanon every year. Industrial growth is expected to lead to an output of about one million tons yearly by 2010.

Greenpeace scientific reports proved that waste dumps and incinerators are a threat to the people and the environment. Even high-tech incinerators emit toxic emissions and produce contaminated ash. The CDR owns the outdated Amrusieh incinerator in southern Beirut which should be shut down.

Greenpeace calls on CDR President Nabil al-Jisr to drop the waste dump and incineration plans. The solution to Lebanon's waste crisis lies in minimizing waste production as much as possible and introducing clean technology methods in all industrial processes. Most of the remaining waste can be reused and recycled.

As a first urgent step, the CDR must set up one or several centers to collect and store safely above ground the industrial solid waste generated by the Lebanese industry. Today, all the toxic industrial waste is dumped in the Mediterranean Sea, in rivers, into the ground or in dozens of illegal dumps all over the country.

The daily ecological tragedy at the coastal waste dump of Borj-Hammud in Beirut is a reminder of the urgency to solve Lebanon's waste crisis. Authorities must end the daily dump there of about 2,500 tons of waste from the Greater Beirut. However, this can only be done after implementing environmentally sound alternatives and not by establishing "Borj-Hammuds" all over Lebanon.

"The CDR is going in the wrong direction by trying to solve the waste crisis without working out a national waste management strategy. Such a strategy cannot be formulated in implemented alone by the CDR. It must be done in a team involving the ministries of environment, education, information, interior and industry, as well as environmental organisations," said Hamdan.