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Saida Garbage Mountain, Lebanon


The “Jabal al-Zbeleh,” the “mountain of garbage” managed by the Municipality of Saida, dates back to 1975, but grew substantially after 1982 when the dumpsite first received rubble and demolition waste from destroyed buildings following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in that year, but has since received all kinds of waste from municipalities of the Saida district.  It is situated on the southern shores of this coastal city, 200 meters away from urban, residential areas. Mohammad Sarji, an activist and member of the NGO Bahr Loubnan, who has long campaigned for the rehabilitation of the mountain directed a short movie [1] showing the mountain of Saida through the eyes of a 10 year old girl who lives near the mountain as well as the effects of this mountain on humans and the marine environment alike. Medical and Chemical wastes can be found in this dump. In November 2009, big amounts of medical waste [2] washed up on the beach of Saida after sliding from the dump. Moreover, Palestinian refugees from the nearby camp who make a living by scavenging for materials from the dump have witnessed the horrors [3] that can be found in the mountain, like full syringes, blood and flesh. Many cases of infection [4] and hospitalization were reported among the scavengers. Regular fires would erupt from the mountain due to the summer heat and the methane generated by the decomposition of waste, taking the fumes inside the city and exposing [5] the citizens to toxic air. In addition to the public health hazard this garbage dump poses, it has also been considered as the main cause of thinning fish catches in the region.Rehabilitation of the Saida dumpsite has for long been subject to intense political bickering. It even became a major campaign issue in the 2009 parliamentary elections between the two opposing parties in the city. After being approved on October 4, 2012, the Saida Dumpsite Rehabilitation Project was not short on controversy. It was reported [6] that the $20 million sum, put aside for the project as part of a larger Saudi grant received by Lebanon after the July 2006 Israeli war, went missing. With serious doubts being raised in regards to the use of state funds and lack of transparency in the Lebanese government.

  The project, started with the installation of a seawall around the site back in 2009 and the closure of the site with the city’s waste going to a newly opened facility further south. And by mid 2013, construction works began [7] for the treatment of the waste and land reclamation with the rubble and demolition waste. The rest of the dump was turned into a sanitary landfill, lined with protective material and gas pipes. On April 21, 2016 [8], 3 years after the construction began, a 33,000 m2 park was opened on the reclaimed land, with plans for its expansion over the landfill site in 8 year-time once the material under it decomposes. Controversy [6] was also present when it came to the contractor’s practices as well as regarding the corruption of those in charge of the project. The park was not originally part of the project but was a way to quell the its detractors. The slogan “We made the mountain into a park” emerged as a catchy way to market the project.

  And the project has been met with a lot of criticism [9] by the Bahr Loubnan NGO, stating that the land reclamation covered a long stretch of sandy beach. They also point out that the rest of the reclaimed land, will not be used for a park (450, 000 m2) and question who will be benefiting from this potentially lucrative beachfront real estate. They also claim that they presented the municipality with more cost-effective plans to recycle most of the trash in the mountain instead of barely sorting and putting the trash into land reclamation.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Saida Garbage Mountain, Lebanon
State or province:Saida
Location of conflict:Saida
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The site is a non-engineered landfill with a surface area of over 6 hectares and rises up to 58m above sea level with extremely steep side slopes. The waste is estimated at 1.5 million cubic meters, and consists of demolition debris, municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, and slaughterhouse waste.

Project area:6
Level of Investment:25,245,297.53 [10]
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:350,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1982
End of the conflict:31/12/2016
Company names or state enterprises:IBC Environmental (IBC) from Lebanon
Suez Environnement from France
Al-Jihad for Commerce and Contracting from Lebanon
Relevant government actors:Saida Municipality
Council for Development and Reconstruction
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Interior and Municipalities
International and Finance InstitutionsUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bahr Loubnan

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Fires, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although the dumpsite was rehabilitated, the lack of transparency in the decision making process has left many questions unanswered.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[6] Saida Trash Mountain: The Stench of Corruption - Al-Akhbar

[8] From Shame to Fame… Saida Trash Mountain to Green Park - UNDP

[7] In Lebanon, a garden blooms on former 'trash mountain' - Mail Online

[9] Saida’s controversial garbage mountain - NowMedia

[10 ] The Rehabilitation of Saida Dumpsite - UNDP

[3] Lebanon’s Sidon Garbage Dump More Serious Than Just the Smell - Green Prophet

[2] Syringes plague Sidon beach as dump spills medical waste - The Daily Star

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[5] Mountain of Trash Blights Historic Lebanese City of Saida

[1] Mountain of Saida (15') | 2006

Mohamed Elsarji

[4] Saida: Poubelle de déchets au Liban

Other documents

Garbage Dump Men walk past a mound of garbage piled up along the coast in Sidon in 2008

Ramzi Haidar (AFP/File)

Saida Garbage Mountain

Saida Dumpsite Rehabilitation Project (En) - UNDP

The Rehabilitation of Saida Dumpsite - UNDP Project Factsheet

Ordinance number 8803 - 04/10/2002 - Ministry of Environment

Meta information

Contributor:Christophe Elias Maroun - ICTA
Last update31/03/2017



Garbage Dump

Men walk past a mound of garbage piled up along the coast in Sidon in 2008 Ramzi Haidar (AFP/File)

Saida Garbage Mountain