Litany toxicity is creeping into soil and crops. The poison is consuming the land and affecting also the air people are breathing, the water they are drinking, and the food they are consuming.
In part 1 of this report, we shed light on the educational inspection’s decision to relocate the students of Bar Elias to different examination centers. The reason of this decision was the intolerable pollution and toxicity levels present in the Litany River nearby. This decision called for students to be relocated to safer locations during the course of the examination period. It also posed many concerns about the fate of the thousands of students in the area; that in addition to the fates of the families that reside on the banks of this river and suffer daily from the dangers caused by its toxicity!
However, the Litany crisis is not only a health issue. In addition to what we mentioned in the previous report, there are several factors as well as multiple sides responsible, for the escalating levels of pollution, that have yet to be held accountable for their actions till this moment. This second part of the report will focus on these issues.
Sources from Bar Elias have told Janoubia that the economic situation in the town has become as dangerous as the pollution itself! One of the affected farmers has admitted that some Arab countries have discontinued importing potatoes from Bekaa. There is also reluctance from the gulf to import Lebanese products that have been irrigated by the polluted waters of the Litany.
Following up on the latest developments, Janoubia made a call with the principal of Bar Elias elementary, Mr. Ehsan Araajy who confirmed that Bar Elias is suffering on the educational level as well as the economic one. He added: “The river is harming every town in its proximity, not only Bar Elias and Marj. Every town upstream and downstream of this river is being affected. Every scientific study conducted proved that the river is contaminated, and the chemicals flowing through it are toxic.”
Araaji stated that in response to the inspection’s report, the ministry of education abandoned two examination locations, and moved the students to safer locations. “The damage to our schools did not occur today, it has been present for 20 years! Our main problem is the factories that dispose of their wastes directly into the river without treatment whatsoever.”
Regarding Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri’s initiative last year, Araaji stated that the efforts made by them, which began a year and a half ago, have been able to establish a working water treatment facility. However; this plant alone, according to Araaji, is not enough since it only responsible for treating domestic sewage waters from Zahle and its nearby towns. Factories, that remain unmonitored, are still dumping their wastes in the river without treatment.”
Araaji added: “Prime Minister Hariri met at the time with the owners of the factories which add up to almost a hundred, and granted them 15 days to activate their treatment facilities or incur a legal penalties including fining and termination. However, that period has ended and the penalties have not been incurred. We are still suffering till this today from industrial factories that cause pollution to the river… All the plans set by the government and by parliament to establish treatment facilities have only succeeded in creating 2 or 3 plants while 22 pledged remain on paper. There is also a lack palpable prospect on obtaining funding to proceed with their implementation.”
Araaji also blames municipalities for their involvement in the issue:” Among the causes of the crisis is also municipal sewage which is directed into the river. The municipality of Bar Elias itself participates in the poisoning of this river.”
Araajy stresses that none of the above mentioned causes of pollution have been dealt with. Meanwhile the rates of cancer, especially near the river banks, are still on the rise recently recording 15 cases including 2 instances in the same home.
While the school principle attributes these malignant diseases to the toxic waters and the crops being irrigated by them, he reiterates how this issue is devastating to the economy of Bar Elias in that this year Jordan refused to buy any of the potato crops after word around this crisis grew.
In conclusion, Araaji lays the responsibility on ministries of agriculture, economy, environment, and health; in addition to the ministry of finance whom he blames for continuing to impose high taxes on factories that cause them to choose between shutting down and evading responsibility. He adds that: “had the ministry worked on lowering taxes for factories incentivizing them to operate their treatment facilities, they would have all obliged.”