Beirut River retains 'honor' of being among most polluted - Daily Star

2004-11-02


BEIRUT: It is polluted "beyond words," said biological-resources engineer Ziad Abi Chaker as he described the infamous Beirut River.

"It's actually one of the most polluted rivers ever," he said, adding: "The amount of pollution that exists in that river is just indescribable."

There is the industrial waste spilled in the river from the various industrial sites along the bank, Abi Chaker said. Furthermore, he added, the river is highly polluted with sewage and remains from the Beirut slaughterhouse, which is one of the major contributing "polluters" of the river.

"This river is not properly monitored," Abi Chaker said. "Actually it's not monitored at all. I recently saw some tires floating along the river."

In fact, The Daily Star, which went on an investigation that morning along the riverside, spotted a spare car parts dealer in Karantina who was getting rid of some old tires in the river.

"Oh don't worry, they'll decompose in a week or two and there will be no trace of them at all," said the man confidently.

In a report submitted by Greenpeace entitled "Tons of Waste from Karantina are dumped in Lebanon's Metn Mountains," millions of cubic meters of waste from the Karantina dump in the Lebanese capital were reported to be transported to the Metn Mountains and dumped down a valley through which where the Beirut river flows.

The report suggested that one of the solutions for the river pollution could be to immediately start a nationwide plan based on waste reduction, separation at source, reuse and recycling.

Halim Barakat and his family, living next to the river for about 10 years now, said that in the winter "Beirut River is about the most awful sight one could witness."

"It's even worse in the summer, ," Barakat said. "When we have guests, we never receive them on the balcony, because the sight and the odor of the rotten river are just beyond human description."

The river's odor, Abi Chaker said, was the strongest during summer time, because of the very low level of water.

"During summer, due to the low level of water, some of the organic waste dumped in the river decomposes and the smell becomes really bad," Abi Chaker said.

However, he added, the Beirut River did not and will not flood with the excessive amount of rain.

"The worst scenario happened a couple of years ago when the river flooded the Karantina slaughterhouse," he said. "However, many projects will be undertaken this year to clean the river and prevent such a catastrophe from happening again."

An example of these projects is Cedar Environmental's handling of the solid wastes starting next week by building the composter for a nominal charge. The composter will prevent the slaughterhouse from regularly dumping all of its waste - solid and liquid - into the Beirut River.