After years of researching Lebanon’s waste crisis, I was horrified to find out it had come to my family’s village. Open waste burning at unregulated dumps across Lebanon creates serious health risks for people living nearby. Mine and other Lebanese families regularly go to our ancestral villages to escape the crowds, noise, and pollution of the cities. Learning that the local government is polluting our villages by burning trash has brought the crisis and my own research home for me in a critical way.
According to a 2017 Ministry of Environment and UNDP report, there are more than 941 open dumps across Lebanon, including 617 municipal waste dumps, more than 150 of which are being burned on a weekly basis. Open burning poses serious health risks like heart disease, cancer, skin diseases, asthma, and respiratory illnesses. Despite the recent passage of a law clearly banning the practice, open burning continues.
The most recent analysis available indicates that open burning of waste is taking place in some of the poorest areas of the country. In other words, those populations least equipped to manage the health impacts of open burning or to escape from sites near open dumps are among those most negatively affected.
We have to protect ourselves and our neighbors. Residents can call on officials within the Ministry of Environment, Environmental Police, and Public Prosecutor Offices to stand up for our health. If you see open burning or dumping of waste call the Ministry of Environment on 1789 and file a complaint. Together we can #StopTheBurning.