Bourj Hammoud Garbage Mountain, Lebanon

The Bourj Hammoud Landfill, which started as an uncontrolled dumpsite during the Lebanese Civil War, persists to this day without rehabilitation, spreading its smells and harmful effects over tens of thousands of citizens and non-citizens living nearby.


<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns">The origins of the waste crisis in Lebanon date back to the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), when various governmental agencies and other groups began dumping garbage in a plot of land in Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated and commercial area inhabited by a majority Armenian population as well as working class Lebanese, migrant workers, and refugees. [1] By the end of the war, tons of waste had piled up by the Bourj-Hammoud seashore. However, the majority of the waste was dumped after the war, when the uncontrolled dump started being used as an official landfill, this time by governmental decision*. After the civil war, around 3,000 tons of waste was thrown daily in the landfill.**  By 1997, the dump had far exceeded its capacity and had become an environmental and public health hazard. [2] The situation became unbearable, with putrid smells and uncontrollable fires in the area, and opposition started by the Tashnag party to close the landfill.*   On May 30, 1997, the Cabinet advised the closure of the Bourj Hammoud landfill and the establishment of two new waste treatment centers, Karantina and Amroussieh. However, the government delayed the implementation of the decision, and the Armenian Tashnag party, as well as the Matn deputies, called for a strike on June 5, 1997. The protesters declared during the strike that it is unacceptable that people have to resort to strike in order to demand the “lifting of garbage that threatens their lives." [3] The Bourj Hammoud landfill was not only a dumpsite for the region, but also for all the suburbs of Beirut and Matn, and people protested that they are not obliged to bear the trash of other regions. [3] Meanwhile, the governmental plan to open an incinerator in Amroussieh failed due to protests from the community- including setting the incinerator on fire- despite threats from the government that the garbage would spread on the roads. The Amroussieh and Karantina incinerators were functional from 1993 to 1997, and were used to incinerate hazardous hospital waste, hazardous plastic waste, household toxic waste, and industrial toxic waste, releasing carcinogenic atmospheric emissions, including dioxins and furans. Moreover, the toxic ash from these incinerators was dumped in the Bourj Hammoud landfill.<a>[4]</a> By July 19,1997, “the streets of the southern suburbs of Beirut and the Southern Matn coast had turned into dozens of landfills, and the residential neighborhoods were sinking in heaps of trash… The waste begun to burn, causing the spread of methane gas and an outbreak of fires threatening the health of residents in the area." [3] In this way, the government was using the same strategy to be repeated in the garbage crisis almost 20 years later: extortion of people by leaving the garbage on the streets and the imposition of solutions with prices and conditions dictated by the crisis. Eventually, the government responded due to popular pressure from the communities near the landfill, and the Bourj Hammoud landfill closed in July 20, 1997, without rehabilitation [3]. However, rather than developing a practical and sustainable solution to the solid waste management problem, the government simply created another landfill- the Naameh landfill. [3] Moreover, today the Bourj Hammoud landfill releases an estimated 120,000 tones of leachate annually, corresponding to more than half the leachate produced by three major coastal dumpsites in Lebanon (Tripoli, Bourj Hammoud and Normandy). [5] As such, the dumpsite still persists and spreads its smells and harmful effects over an area where tens of thousands of citizens and non-citizens live.  *Interview with Bourj Hammoud municipality   **Interview with activist Raja Njeim </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Bourj Hammoud Garbage Mountain, Lebanon</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/lebanon">Lebanon</a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>Matn District </td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Bourj Hammoud</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>HIGH local level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Waste Management</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites<br /> Incinerators</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/domestic-municipal-waste'>Domestic municipal waste</a><br /><a href='/commodity/chemical-products'>Chemical products</a><br /><a href='/commodity/industrial-waste'>Industrial waste</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">The site is a non-engineered landfill with a surface area of 16.3 hectares and rises up to 55m above sea level with extremely steep side slopes. The waste is estimated at 6 million cubic meters, and consists of demolition debris, excavation material, municipal solid waste, industrial waste, and hospital waste.[7] Control measures implemented at the site have been limited to the deployment of a soil cover along with drilling of several penetrating gas vents.[8] Slope failure is highly likely because the slopes are unstable, and also because the subsoil underlying the waste is a layer of soft clay, creating severe stability problems. [7]</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">In 1987, 15,800 barrels of toxic waste were illegally exported from Italy to Lebanon, and some of these barrels were dumped in Bourj Hammoud. An army report states that 2,000 barrels of this toxic waste were burned at the waste dump of Bourj Hammoud.[9] Another report states that there are actually 5,000 barrels of toxic waste in the landfill (with the possibility of the presence of nuclear waste). The toxic waste consists of the explosive substance nitrocellulose; outdated adhesives, organophosphate pesticides, solvents as well as outdated medication; oil residues and highly toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium; arsenic; chlorinated substances; PCBs, and other substances. Hundreds of barrels contained extremely high concentrations of the lethal substance dioxin. Greenpeace reported that these substances can cause skin and eye irritation, and damage the liver, kidney and reproductive systems. <br/><br/>Researchers have identified extreme marine pollution around the Bourj Hammoud landfill, due to solid wastes dumped on the coast, as well as wastewater, oil residues, and chemicals dumped in the sea.[9] Large volumes of gas and leachate are generated from waste decomposition.[7]<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>20</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Level of Investment (in USD)</td><td>Not clear</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Urban</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Potential Affected Population</td><td>350,000</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>01/01/1975</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">End Date</td><td>20/07/1997</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Company Names or State Enterprises</td><td><a href='/company/sukleen'>Sukleen</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/lebanon'><small>Lebanon</small></a><br /><a href='/company/averda'>Averda</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-kingdom'><small>United Kingdom</small></a> - <small>Averda owns Sukleen</small></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>Ministry of Environment<br/><br/>Ministry of Interior and Municipalities<br/><br/>Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR)<br/><br/>Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform<br/><br/>Bourj Hammoud Municipality</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>The Tashnag Party</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>In REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Local government/political parties<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Street protest/marches<br /> Strikes</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Air pollution, Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Infectious diseases</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>Stopped</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Under negotiation<br /> Project cancelled</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>No</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>Although the landfill was shut down, it was not remediated, and there is now a governmental decision to open another landfill next to the old one (see next case story). A consulting firm, Associated Consulting Engineers (ACE), is involved in a project to rehabilitate the old landfill (LINORD development project). The project plans to solve the problems of soil instability, as well as leachate and gas generation. In addition, it plans to beautify the visual impact of the landfill by transforming it into a district park.[7] However, measures to solve slope instability include reshaping and lowering the height of the dump, and transporting the excavated waste to the new engineered sanitary landfill near the fishing port. Environmental experts and activists find this extremely dangerous due to the presence of barrels of toxic (and possibly nuclear) waste, which can become a public health crisis if poked, and need a special archeological excavation method. The municipality of Bourj Hammoud and the State are denying the existence of these barrels in the landfill.</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> 2. Abu-Rish, Z. (2015). Garbage politics. Middle East Research and Information Project. Vol. 45<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.merip.org/mer/mer277/garbage-politics" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 10. Shaban, A. (2008). Use of satellite images to identify marine pollution along the Lebanese coast. Environmental Forensics, 9(2-3), 205-214.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15275920802122296" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 4. Masri, R. (1999). Development at what price? A review of Lebanese authorities’ management of the environment. Arab Studies Quarterly, 21(1), 117-134.<br/></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 8. Abi-Esber, L. & El-Fadel, M. (2012). Economic Viability Of LFG Recovery Under The CDM Mechanism. WIT Press, 163, 83-92.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.witpress.com/elibrary/wit-transactions-on-ecology-and-the-environment/163/23686" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> 1. Wilson, Susan. (2015, April 24). Burj Hammoud: Lebanon's Little Armenia. The Daily Star.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Apr-24/295589-burj-hammoud-lebanons-little-armenia.ashx" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 3. Joelle Boutros. 2015. Garbage crisis in Lebanon- 1977: Same Policy, Repeated History. The Legal Agenda. 15 September 2015<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://legal-agenda.com/en/article.php?id=3102" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 5. Support to DG Environment for the development of the Mediterranean De-pollution Initiative “Horizon 2020”: Review of Ongoing and Completed Activities. European Commission. 2006.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/enlarg/med/pdf/review_report08_en.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 6. Yassin, A. (2014, November 26). What is the secret behind Bourj Hammoud waste mountain’s “endurance”? Green Area.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://greenarea.me/en/63107/what-is-the-secret-behind-bourj-hammoud-waste-mountains-endurance/" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 7. Project to rehabilitate Bourj Hammoud Landfill by Associated Consulting Engineers (ACE)<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.ace-intl.com/view_project.php?project=5370cdeca4872" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> 9. Hamdan, F. Waste trade in the Mediterranean. Greenpeace Mediterranean. August 1996<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.fouadhamdan.org/cms/upload/pdf/ItalianToxicWasteInLebanon_FouadHamdan_GreenpeaceReport_ENGLISH_May1996.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Documents</td><td><table><tr><td><p><strong>Fires at the Bourj Hammoud garbage mountain</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Garbage_Mountain_1.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>A view on the mountain of garbage in Bourj Hammoud</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Garbage_Mountain_2.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>Catherine Moughalian, The Asfari Institute, [email protected]</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>02/11/2016</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>
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