Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Happy Anniversary to the ongoing Lebanese garbage crisis

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Happy Anniversary to the Lebanese garbage crisis! It’s now one year old. Lebanon’s waste problem is actually older, but the big crisis that shook the country is entering its second year. To celebrate, let's have a look at some of the lies we so much love to tell ourselves.

Beirut has been recently named the No.1 international food destination. Obviously, we started singing koullouna and posting patriotic hasthags on social media. But even if Lebanese cuisine is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, the country's reality is far less rosy than this unlikely ranking wants us to believe. During the past year, scandal after scandal, Lebanese have come eo realize that almost everything they’ve been eating was unfit for consumption.

When the garbage crisis came along, things got worse. Much worse. The piles of trash rotting everywhere during summer, then winter, then summer again, have polluted the country’s soil and unavoidably leaked towards our underground water.

"Lebnén, balad el mayy", we keep repeating: Lebanon, the country of water. So it was, but nowadays, any study of any river, lake or stream shows that Lebanon’s water is heavily polluted, to say the least. The same water that (rarely) flows through our taps... So when we shower, brush our teeth, clean our house, wash our food, our clothes, our plates, our glasses, our forks and our knives, we do it - in so many words - with liquid garbage.

Lebanon is also the country of majestic mountains. Who hasn’t sung about these jibâl el châmikha we take so much pride in? Through the ages, poets have rivaled in their flowery description of how breathtaking they are. I wonder what they’d say if they saw how these mountains have been turned into garbage dumps, and how new ones, made of trash, have risen across the land.

Let's not mention the mother of clichés, the one that links water and mountains, the great classic: "you can ski and swim on the same day". Actually it's true, you can, but only if you are blessed with a flying superpower and are able to whoosh over the bumper-to-bumper traffic, and of course avoid choking on the heavy smog covering most of Lebanon.

But one should always stay positive. Soon enough, the rain season will be upon us, and we should see again the astonishing spectacle of rivers of trash flowing from mountains of garbage. And we could, after getting the proper vaccines against every virus there is, happily indulge in some trashy same-day ski’n swim.

The sad thing about all this is that we keep thinking that we, Lebanese, are smarter than others. We’re so smart, nothing in the country really works, no proper electricity, no drinking water, no decent telecom services – don’t get me started on the internet connection...

We're so smart, we know our leaders steal the country’s riches and shamelessly lie to us at every opportunity. But nevertheless, we keep voting for them in every election. And now, on the garbage crisis first anniversary, we have proven that not only we did nothing to prevent it - while it was coming at us with the discretion of a charging dinosaur - we did even less, or so little, to resolve it.

And still, until further notice, we're not planning to do anything about it. Maybe moan every once in a while, between two #proudtobelebanese when anything remotely good happens.

On the other hand – and one needs to seriously take this into consideration – if we were in fact a masochist and suicidal people, then yes! the world definitely needs to bow to our genius.

© Claude El Khal, 2016


Ibrahim Haidar إِبْرَاهِيمْ حَيدرْ said...

I appreciate your great efforts to share this valuable information. However, how do you know that the ground water is being polluted by the garbage crisis? is there links to official or university's research?

Groundwater contamination occurs when man-made products such as gasoline, oil, road salts and chemicals get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. With that being said, I think we are to blame weak recycling endeavors because there's no set ways or awareness to dispose oil, paint and hazardous products. This crises is regardless if this material is on the street or a landfill. I see the groundwater contamination to be inevitable. However, I would argue that the main distress from pilling trash on streets are the toxins due to gas release from decay.

Rabih said...

I know how, simple: I got an amebiasis during my last trip to Lebanon. A parasite that usually exists in countries like India or sub Saharan Africa.