This Isn't a Landfill. It's a Mediterranean Beach

Lebanon's garbage crisis comes to a pungent head
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 23, 2018 1:23 PM CST
This Isn't a Landfill. It's a Mediterranean Beach
Workers clean a shore from garbage days after an extended storm battered the Mediterranean country, at the Zouq Mosbeh coastal town, north of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(Newser) – Lebanon's festering trash crisis came crashing ashore this week, after residents woke up to find a powerful winter storm had laid a mantle of waste at a beach near Beirut—a pile of cattle bones, footwear, tires, and vast amounts of plastic waste that reached more than 100 feet inland. The scenes were a national embarrassment for a country that once prided itself on its sparkling Mediterranean coastline but cannot wean itself off coastal landfills and the convenience of throwing its trash into the sea. Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered an immediate clean-up of Zouq Mosbeh beach, but the futility of it was immediately apparent as rough waves carried in even more trash on Tuesday. "We said it was not possible to keep dumping in the water. We knew we were going to get here," says local environmentalist Paul Abi Rached.

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Abi Rached says rough waves had broken down a faulty retaining wall around a coastal dump just east of Beirut, pouring trash into the sea. Civil society groups say officials are making fortunes on shady deals for landfills and incinerators, at the public's expense. They say, too, that the government is using trash to fill in land along the coast—a bonanza for politically connected developers who can cash in on the property that's been raised, quite literally, from the sea. Officials say they are doing nothing untoward, and that the landfills they operate are done to technical specifications. But the stench is impossible to deny. Travelers arriving to Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport are greeted with a waft of odors from an expanding landfill at the end of one of the runways, notes the AP.

(Read more Lebanon stories.)

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