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Cleaning up the Lebanese Coast and the Polluted Environment.

The president of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri took a praiseworthy step on Sunday. Lebanon is in urgent need of raising awareness among people, children and students about the importance of protecting the environment. The sea in Lebanon is extremely polluted although it is one of the country's most important treasures. However, the Lebanese state seems to be unable to take any decision regarding critical environmental issues, such as addressing the issue of wastewater treatment. Riad al-Asaad, the Lebanese contractor and politician, relates the difficulties he faced when his company sought to execute the wastewater project extending from the Movenpick Hotel, and passing through Verdun, the Marriott, and then Bir Hassan and Ouzai. The plan included two pumping stations, one at the Nahr Ibrahim River, and the other at the Movenpick. Al-Asaad relates how, since 2004, he has been trying to execute the project, and has managed to construct a pumping station at the Nahr Ibrahim Bridge, thanks to the area's mayor, who wanted to clean up his region. However, he has been unable to complete the other pumping station, which should be located at Movenpick. This impasse has lasted for a year and a half, because of government decisions and because of some investors who refused to vacate their illegally-built properties, to allow for the construction of the station. Al-Asaad says that this project, which is funded by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and which aims at cleaning up the environment in these areas, continues to face huge obstacles, which the state is unable to eliminate. Al-Asaad also revealed that MPs from Baalbek demonstrated to demand that the state settle the issue of a dump in that area, as though as MPs for the area, they have had nothing to do with the state and their region. The frightening thing in Baalbek, according to al-Asaad, is that while there is a waste treatment plant in place there, sewage water does not flow into it, as farmers use this water to irrigate their crops, and even Hizbullah cannot influence the farmers, as he said. The party had proposed treating wastewater and giving farmers clean water, and the latter agreed to draw 20 percent of their water needs from the treated water provided by Hizbullah and the Council for Development and Reconstruction. However, they still draw 80 percent of their needs from sewage water to irrigate their crops, according to al-Asaad.

This situation is typical in other parts of the country, since Lebanon has a high level of sea, air and land pollution.

Pollution leads to diseases and human catastrophes. Mayors must be aware of the importance of improving their regions and providing better standards of living for residents than today. Where is the state when it comes to this socio-economic issue? And where do the MPs, who are a fundamental part of the state, stand vis-A -vis this critical issue?

Instead of competing over seats in insipid political battles, they should shoulder their responsibility for the future of the people, and in securing a clean environment to protect people from disease. Ordinary Lebanese are sick of politics and disputes, and all they are asking is that attention be paid to their daily and environmental affairs.

The state must undertake a new, real campaign to clean the shore, Lebanon's water and its air. Everyone is responsible for carrying out projects as quickly as possible in this regard, and for taking prompt decisions to complete environmental projects that are stalled due to the lack of political will, which aims at protecting certain investors who are blocking the project.

In the meantime, the minister of education bears the greatest responsibility in what regards the oversight of schoolbooks, so that teaching students methods of environmental protection becomes a priority in school curricula, or else pollution will increase, and diseases along with them!

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:May 19, 2010
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