Update: What is happening in Costa Brava?

Source: L’Orient Le  Jour

Over the past few days, photos of hunters on the coast and dead seagulls have emerged on social media. Acting under the instructions of the Middle East Airlines chairman, these hunters were dispatched to the outskirts of the airport to shoot down the increasing seagull population which it seems have been attracted to waste accumulated at the site of the new Costa Brava landfill. The chairman stated in a television interview that the hunting will resume until “the government initiates solutions.”

Regardless of the merit of this method, from a legal standpoint, such a move violates a number of laws. Culling seagulls violates the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), a treaty that Lebanon is a party to. The agreement calls on parties to “take measures to conserve migratory waterbirds, giving special attention to endangered species as well as to those with an unfavorable conservation status.” Twenty one species of gulls are identified as waterbirds in the treaty. The Lebanon Eco Movement claims that 17 different types of seagulls have been shot down in the Costa Brava region. The Lebanese Hunting Law, Law 580 of 2004, does not list seagulls as one of the species that are permitted to be hunted in the country. Despite the law’s shortcomings and loopholes, the unlawfulness of hunting seagulls is very clear.

The fact that the Chairman of the national airline company is publicly admitting to violating at least two environmental laws with no repercussions is worrying. It is not clear if such a measure will be effective in controlling the bird population. But what is that it clearly does not address the root problem, the location of the Costa Brava Landfill. As long as organic waste is disposed in this site, scavengers, such as seagulls, will always be attracted to the area.

This is why landfills are not normally built near airports. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) Environmental, Health, and Safety Guidelines on Waste Management Facilities explicitly warn against he proximity of the airport to sites that are prone to scavenging wildlife. It recommends that landfills should be located “3 km from a turbojet airport and 1.6 km from a piston-type airport  or as permitted by the aviation authority fully considering potential threats to air safety due to attraction and presence of birds.” Such an issue would have been identified had an EIA of the Costa Brava been carried out before its construction.

The government’s actions in formulating and implementing solid waste policy in Lebanon have been unacceptable, in some cases surreal. It is about time someone is held accountable for the consistent violations of environmental law and jeopardizing of human health.

Image result for costa brava landfill lebanon

Source: The Daily Star

What is currently going on in with the Costa Brava Landfill perfectly demonstrates the importance of basing government decisions on pertinent factors that affect the public, and not political factors to appease personal interests. Had relevant environmental, social, and economic factors been taken into consideration when deciding where to build a new landfill, the Costa Brava landfill site would have probably been one of the least attractive locations.

We now find ourselves in a situation where a landfill that has not been completed already poses a serious threat to the neighboring marine environment and the country’s only international airport. Both these issues have been raised numerous times since the government selected the landfill site.

As explained in a blog post last June, the procedure of selecting the locations of the new landfills did not follow the required environmental legal process of Lebanon. No proper assessments by a third party were made to investigate specific landfill locations. Had an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) been made for the Costa Brava landfill site, as required by Decree 8633 (Solid Waste facilities are listed in Annex 1 – projects that require an EIA), major environmental and economic concerns would have been identified and publicly discussed.

These concerns would have either been uncovered by the consultant working on the EIA, or raised in one of the public consultation sessions that are required. Concerns of nearby fishermen that the water is severely polluted, an issue they have been complaining about for years, would have been included in the EIA. Another concern would have included the fact that building a landfill adjacent to the coast has serious implications for the Barcelona Convention. The main goal of the Convention is to “reduce pollution in the Mediterranean Sea and protect and improve the marine environment in the area.” Lebanon has signed this convention and ratified in 1997 through Decree 126. The threat to the airport would have been raised at one point of the process. All these decisions would have been identified to policy makers to make their final decision.

Since none of this took place, Lebanon resorted to its default reactionary mode and the Public Works and Transport Minister just announced an emergency at the airport. This has resulted in a judge ordering the temporary closure of the landfill. Measures were taken by the government, in the form of installing additional ultrasonic bird repellers to reduce the number of birds near the airport. Had a proper EIA been carried out, the government may have implemented more effective preventive measures instead of reacting to their shortsighted policy.

The lack of adherence to legal standards and laws by the government is an issue that this blog has raised numerous times. The government cannot expect the wider public to abide by the country’s laws when the same government violates it.

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