Friday, March 20, 1998

LebEnv # 50


by Fareed Abou-Haidar

This is the 50th issue of LebEnv. In commemoration, I will try to list the environmental problems facing Lebanon. Some may have been resolved; this is indicated. Many are intertwined but listed separately. The problems, in no particular order:

  • Urban and rural sprawl: the construction of buildings all over the land with no planning.
  • Land subdivision projects that destroy natural areas and scenery.
  • Private ownership of remote, natural areas; they are in danger of being developed.
  • Poor planning of new areas, resulting in an urban environment hostile to pedestrians; this includes many new areas around Beirut.
  • Shortage of city parks to relieve the monotony of the concrete jungle.
  • Road construction in previously roadless areas. (This will be the subject of LebEnv #51.)
  • Road-widening projects that displace old houses and destroy orchards and natural land.
  • Soil dumping in natural areas; the soil is trucked from construction sites and dumped below roads and in valleys.
  • Soil erosion: caused by forest fires, construction, neglect of agricultural terraces, overgrazing.
  • Overgrazing by goats; they will even eat small trees, preventing them from reaching a size beyond the reach of goats.
  • Loss of ecosystems and plant species due to development, overgrazing, and other threats.
  • Lack of protected areas. (A problem until recently; over five percent of the country is protected by three major preserves and dozens of other protected zones.)
  • Forest fires.
  • Tree cutting for wooden fruit boxes, firewood, etc. (Now banned)
  • Too little forest cover. (Plans are afoot to increase the percentage greatly.)
  • Loss of agricultural areas to urban sprawl.
  • Rock quarries eating up the mountains. (Many have been closed, but problems remain with illegal quarries.)
  • Hunting (poaching) of all kinds of birds and other animals in an unregulated manner. (A ban has been in effect for over three years.)
  • Air pollution, mostly from cars and factories.
  • Asbestos pollution: in the air from the manufacturing process, and from the products themselves. (A very active issue in Lebanon right now.)
  • Cars: too many of them, creating traffic jams and pollution.
  • Lack of good public transit system. (Hopefully not for long.)
  • Noise: caused mainly by cars, trucks, and motorcycles and their horns. Even in remote areas, you can hear the sound of distant cars echoing across valleys. (Quieter engines and refraining from blowing horns -"tuzmeer" - can help.)
  • Water pollution from sewage and industrial wastes dumped in rivers or contaminating the water table. (Sewage treatment plants will be/are being built.)
  • Toxic wastes, both illegally imported during the war and dumped in old quarries and watersheds, and domestically produced wastes that are improperly disposed of.)
  • Human illnesses, including cancer, caused by pollution (and smoking).
  • Destruction of old Lebanese architecture, especially in Beirut.
  • Loss of beaches due to development of resorts and their accompanying jetties.
  • Ancient historical sites threatened by rock quarries (Mseilha), looting (Tyre), neglect. (This problem was largely under control after the end of the war, except for the fiasco of downtown Beirut.)
  • Garbage: too much is produced, with no place to dump it. (This crisis is being dealt with, for better or for worse.)
  • Littering by ignorant people on road sides and picnic areas.
  • Lack of recycling. (This was a problem until recently, but is now being introduced.)

These are just some of the threats to Lebanon that are generated within the country. Let's not forget threats from outside, such as global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer.

Fareed Abou-Haidar

Addendum to LebEnv #50: (Friday, April 3, 1998)

Incredibly, in my list of environmental threats to Lebanon, which I never intended to be complete, I forgot to mention the important issue of garbage polluting the sea! This floating trash, mostly a result of old landfills (more properly, "seafills," where garbage was dumped directly into the sea, has made our beaches unusable and has floated to the beaches of countries such as Turkey, Cyprus and and Greece, and is a big embarrassment.

Another issue is animal cruelty. Apparently, there was a recent event where Swedish TV obtained some footage of imported cattle being treated in the most inhumane manner at the port. Also, I have witnessed a big bird, possibly an eagle, tied to a dead tree and kept as a "pet" in front of a shop in Beirut. In addition, kids too "young" to use even a pellet gun get a head start on their songbird hunting "career" by painting some adhesive on tree branches where birds get stuck and die a slow death or are murdered by their captors.

Fareed's Home Page (with articles and photos on the environment in Lebanon) at

(See other photographs from some of the areas mentioned above.)



Created 980321/bl