Written by Nehme Salloum
Translated by Daisy Khalil
The pollution crisis in Lebanon worsens on a daily basis, ravaging the Lebanese regions, one at a time, changing the appearance of seaside areas and tourist sites, and turning some of them into dumps and incubators of different kinds of insects and bacteria.
Pollution has recently hit a very beautiful area; one that is too good to be spoiled. It is El-Mina's corniche in Tripoli.
This beautiful place, which used to attract visitors from different Lebanese regions, foreign tourists, and all those looking for a serene walk at dusk, has now become a dumping ground for waste and sewage.
Overpopulation has reached its peak in Lebanon in recent years, mainly in the country's major cities. The latter resulted in an increase in pollution rates on El-Mina's beach area.
As a result of the growing number of inhabitants, the beach became a dumpster for solid household waste, tires and sewage which flow directly into the sea along the corniche, carrying human waste and chemicals from homes and factories, and subsequent serious damage to the environment, in general, and fishing, in particular.
In 2003, the project to create a sewage drainage plant was contracted to a French company that launched the sewer station in 2009.
In 2010, the project to expand the new wastewater network in the city of Tripoli was launched under the supervision of the Development and Reconstruction Council.
This project caused daily blockage of road traffic, thus damaging the interests of city traders.
Besides, the slowness in the completion of the project in question raised the indignation of inhabitants of Tripoli who kept urging the competent authorities to get the job done.
The same question tormented the inhabitants of Tripoli the most: Should the implementation of such a project take 17 years?
Head of the Department of Health and Environment at the Faculty of Public Health of the Lebanese University, Dr. Jalal Halawani, said that this network needed four more years of work to complete its extension.
"The plant that treats wastewater works 20% less than its operational capacity. The work of this plant is limited to the initial treatment," he added.
"One of the main problems that hinder the work of the plant is the station's maintenance contract which ended some time ago and which would be very costly to renew," he went on.
"The sewage and rainwater networks were linked. Work has been underway for the past six years for the purpose of separating the two networks," Halawani explained.
"The first phase of the project has come to an end, and we will soon finish working on the other major networks. By implementing our work plan, we will be able to drain about 80% of the wastewater by the end of 2018," he said.
"But until the end of 2017, the only option we have is to live with the current pollution that affects El-Mina. (...) By separating wastewater from rainwater, the drainage network will serve the city for more than 50 years," he said.
Halawani also called upon the Government, and in particular the Development and Reconstruction Council, to speed up the work and reduce the duration of the project, noting that materials, loans and infrastructure services already existed.
The city of Tripoli will benefit from a new infrastructure, a water network and a sewer system. The groundwater reservoir will then be protected, no doubt, according to Halawani.
Exerting joint efforts to put an end to the crisis of pollution which keeps getting worse in Tripoli, could allow the return of tourists, on one hand, and could give fishermen and inhabitants of this city's El-Mina the chance to benefit from its sea wealth.