On January 31st 2017, a Lebanese court ordered the permanent closure of the Costa Brava landfill in four months. The issue was brought to a court by a group of plaintiffs that consisted of lawyers and civilians living near the landfill. The landfill was ordered to be closed to preserve a healthy environment and to protect the safety of the passengers that use the only international airport in the country.
Last month, the Minister of Public Works and Transportation declared an emergency at the airport because of the increasing number of birds that pose a threat to the aircrafts. The closure of the landfill has jeopardized the government’s solid waste management solution to the waste crisis.
The Costa Brava landfill and activities surrounding it has violated a number of laws. The court order is based on the Environmental Protection Law (Law 444 of 2002) and upholds the right of a clean environment and the right to access a safe airport. The court ruling was based on the following factors:
- The geographical location of the landfill and its proximity to the airport.
- The procedure of the landfill does not comply with technical standards and will result in short and long term damage to the marine environment.
- The release of gasses from the decomposition of organic waste in the landfill has a high capacity to the heat up the atmosphere which will pose a serious threat to the airport.
- The protective measures implemented at the landfill to repel birds are not effective.
This court ruling brings up a serious question about Bourj Hammoud landfill, which is the second landfill the government is constructing and is also located along the coast. Are the activities and procedure in that landfill the same as the ones in the Costa Brava landfill? If so, doesn’t it also pose a serious threat to the marine environment near Bourj Hammoud?
Unfortunately, the Costa Brava experience is just one of many bad experiences following the waste crisis. The government has not been able to find a suitable alternative for the Naameh landfill since setting a deadline for its closure in January 2014. Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s waste have been managed under no plan since the landfill’s actual closure in July 2015. That is over 500 days of no solid waste management plan of the most populated area of Lebanon. During this time, there has been no initiatives by the government to promote sorting of waste at the home for the purposes of recycling or other non-disposal methods.
Although this is a positive development that sets a precedent to respecting environmental legislation in Lebanon, it is yet to be seen if the government will abide by the court order and meet the closure deadline.