Lebanon’s trash crisis returns, but did it ever disappear in the first place?

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A picture taken on January 23, 2018 shows a view of the beach of the coastal town of Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, covered with garbage and waste that washed and piled along the shore after stormy weather. (AFP)
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Workers clean the beach of the coastal town of Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, on January 23, 2018 as garbage washed and piled along the shore after stormy weather. (AFP)
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Workers clean the beach of the coastal town of Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, on January 23, 2018 as garbage washed and piled along the shore after stormy weather. (AFP)
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Garbage litters the shore of Zouk Mikael, north of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on January 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Lebanon’s trash crisis returns, but did it ever disappear in the first place?

DUBAI: Lebanon’s garbage crisis resurfaced Monday as rubbish was found strewn across a Lebanese beach, believed to have been washed down by stormy weather from a nearby landfill site on the coast – a claim the government denies.
Images of the beach, covered in a blanket of rubbish were shared across social media prompting outcries from residents and politicians alike. It comes as Human Rights Watch (HRW) launched a campaign over health and environmental concerns prompted by the decision to burn the vast amounts of trash that have built up in the country’s landfills.
“The sea has filled with garbage because officials who lack conscience and competency are in charge of the waste file,” Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel told local news channels.
The rubbish on the beach, near the Zouk Mosbeh/Nahr Al-Kalb river, is believed to have been washed down from the Burj Hammoud landfill during a storm the day before.
“The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) is in charge of overseeing these works and there is an environment minister and a government. They are all to blame and they must be held responsible for what we are witnessing today [Monday],” Gemayel said.
The politician said the council had not taken measures to prevent such an incident from occurring, sighting the absence of wave breakers as the main reason for the landfill’s garbage spewing onto the beach and into the sea.
However the CDR issued a statement denying the landfill’s role in the beach pollution, but videos shared on social media appear to show otherwise.
The statement, translated from Arabic, read: “This news is completely false, in our knowledge the garbage disposal os surrounded by concrete and there is no way for the sea to enter. It is strange that the waves took the garbage from Ghadeer and Burj Hammoud and put them in Keserwan [Zouk Mosbeh/Nahr el-Kalb] without them having any effect on the coast in between.”
Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has since ordered an immediate clean-up of the coast.
The Lebanese garbage crisis began in the summer of 2015 after the closure of the Naamah landfill site after it had reached capacity. For months after, with no alternative site, Beirut’s streets became filled with large piles of rubbish that stretched for miles.
Eventually the Burj Hammoud landfill was expanded – but even that was insufficient to cope with the increase bulk of waste produced by the nation and HRW says illegal sites were created by the Lebanese government.
#StopTheBurning
But the beach incident is just the latest in the ongoing crisis. HRW launched #StopTheBurning campaign last week after it was revealed that staff at the landfills had been instructed to burn the vast amounts of garbage leftover by the 2015 crisis.
And HRW is now calling on the Lebanese government to cease the burning, and is rallying support through online messages and billboards across the country.
“We are pressing the government to end the dangerous practice of open burning, and finally pass a national waste management law and strategy that fulfills the right to health and a clean environment and comply with international law,” HRW researcher Bassam Khawaja told Arab News.
The government had resorted to burning large quantities of rubbish in landfills in a short-term plan to rid the Mediterranean country of its trash, but the health consequences are severe, according the HRW report.
“Human Rights Watch has found that government’s failure to stop the widespread open burning of waste at more than 150 dumps violates Lebanon’s obligation to protect the health of its residents under international human rights law,” Khawaja added.
Open burning has increased in Beirut and Mount Lebanon after the waste management system collapsed in 2015, with a 330 percent increase at the latter site alone, according to the Civil Defense and Lebanon’s fire department.
“Open burning of waste is harming nearby residents’ health one garbage bag at a time, but authorities are doing virtually nothing to bring this crisis under control,” said Nadim Houry, interim Beirut director at HRW.
“People may think the garbage crisis started in 2015, but this has been going on for decades as the government jumps from one emergency plan to the next while largely ignoring the situation outside Beirut and surrounding areas,” Houry added.


Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

Updated 8 sec ago
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Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

  • At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra
  • Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead

SALALAH, Oman: Cyclone Mekunu blew into the Arabian Peninsula early Saturday, drenching arid Oman and Yemen with rain, cutting off power lines and leaving at least one dead and 40 missing, officials said.
Portions of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall. The Arabian Sea angrily churned Saturday morning, sending mounds of sea foam into the air. The waves ate into one tourist beach, pulling hunks of it away and toppling thatch umbrellas cemented into the sand.
As Mekunu barreled overhead, the eye of the storm provided a moment’s respite. At one luxury hotel, which already had evacuated its guests, workers sat down early for a traditional “suhoor,” a meal Muslims eat before sunrise during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. They laughed and shared plates by flashlight in a darkened ballroom, the cyclone’s wind a dull roar behind their clatter.
At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra, which earlier took the storm’s brunt, police said. Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead.
India’s Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometers (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). It called the cyclone “extremely severe.”
Many holidaymakers fled the storm Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed. The Port of Salalah — a key gateway for the country — also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain.
Omani forecasters warned Salalah and the surrounding area would get at least 200 millimeters (7.87 inches) of rain, over twice the amount of downfall this city typically gets in a year. Authorities remained worried about flash flooding in the area’s valleys and potential mudslides down its nearby cloud-shrouded mountains.
A sizable police presence fanned out across the city, the hometown of Oman’s longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Many officers rode in Royal Oman Police SUVs with chicken wire over the windows, likely because their other vehicles weren’t tall enough to maneuver through the floodwater.
“Of course, for the citizen there is going to be a sense of fear of the consequences that can happen,” said Brig. Gen. Mohsin bin Ahmed Al-Abri, the commander of Dhofar governorate’s police. “We have been through a few similar cases and there were losses in properties and also in human life as well. But one has to take precautions and work on that basis.”
As torrential rains poured down on Friday, authorities opened schools to shelter those whose homes are at risk. About 600 people, mostly laborers, huddled at the West Salalah School, some sleeping on mattresses on the floors of classrooms, where math and English lesson posters hung on the walls.
Shahid Kazmi, a worker from Pakistan’s Kashmir region, told The Associated Press that police moved him and others to the school. He said he was a bit scared added: “Inshallah (God willing), we are safe here.”
On Socotra, authorities relocated over 230 families to sturdier buildings and other areas, including those more inland and in the island’s mountains, Yemeni security officials said.
Flash floods engulfed Socotra streets, cutting electricity and communication lines. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived on the island just hours after the cyclone receded.
Socotra Gov. Ramzy Mahrous said one ship sank and two others ran aground in the storm, initially saying authorities believed 17 people were missing and presumed dead.
Yemen’s self-exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued a statement ordering troops under his command on the island to help citizens, deliver supplies and reopen roads.
The island, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, has been the focus of a dispute between the UAE and Yemen’s internationally recognized government amid that country’s war after Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is home to rare plants, snails and reptiles that can be found nowhere else on the planet.