Tons and tons of toxic waste is being dumped into the Mediterranean off the coast of Lebanon, according to environmental activists.
This waste is "100 times more toxic than raw sewage," Paul Abi Rached from the NGO Terre Liban said, according to The National.
In the wake of Lebanon's ongoing trash-crisis, which began in the summer of 2015, at least two million tons of toxic waste has been dumped into the Mediterranean, threatening to contaminate and eradicate sea life along the coast. The number could be much higher, but official figures are not readily available if they are known or recorded at all.
Lebanon's government isn't concerned
When questioned about the dumping last week, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib seemed incapable of aptly addressing the issue, saying it was simply part of the plan to deal with the country's trash.
"The contract between the contractor and the Council for Development and Reconstruction stipulates that trash from this [Burj Hammoud] landfill would be disposed of at sea [in the process of land reclamation]," Khatib said, according to The Daily Star.
Wadi El Asmar, a leader with the Lebanese protest movement YouStink, which arose when trash began piling high in the streets of Beirut in 2015, said the government promised the trash would be "treated" before it is dumped in the sea, but he expressed his skepticism that this is actually happening.
Akram Chehayeb, Lebanon's former agriculture minister, also blasted the government's inaction this month.
"The president says he is looking into a plan, the Cabinet says it has a plan and the environment minister says he has a plan, but none of them are actually doing anything," Chehayeb said.
The environmental impact could be staggering
Najat Saliba, a chemistry professor at the American University of Beirut and the director of the Nature Conservation Center, told The National that the environmental impact is "horrific." She explained that the toxins will cause sea plants and sea life to die. Humans will also be affected.
"Fish [and] marine plants will get sick and die, algae will grow and mask the light from going into the sea, and this will enhance the life of bacteria that will eventually affect human lives," she said.
Fishermen have already reported that trash is being caught in their nets. Beachgoers throughout the country are also accustomed to see trash floating past as they cool off in the waves.
But much of the waste is even more sinister than the plastic bottles and papers floating along Lebanon's shores.
As Lebanese blog Newsroom Nomad points out, the government is dumping "civil war era trash" into the sea "without erecting wave breakers or taking any preventive measures."
Who can say what types of vile toxic waste exists among these piles of decades old trash? Remnants of the country's bloody conflict.
Do Lebanese care?
While many express anger and frustration with the government's inaction, protests against the trash crisis haven't seen large turnouts since 2015. During the hot summer months of that year, trash filled Beirut's streets, even towering above pedestrians heads along sidewalks in some parts of the city.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets calling for a solution to the mounting crisis. The Lebanese government essentially ignored the protestors and blamed them for hurting business and tourism in the country. Never mind that the smell of garbage permeating all of Beirut was less than inviting.
Since those protests, most Lebanese have resigned themselves to the depressing reality of the trash crisis, seeming to accept it as another aspect of daily life in the country.
Referring to this as "creeping normalcy," Newsroom Nomad writes: "We, the Lebanese, simply call it the rule of '3ade' [normal]. The garbage may return to the streets? 3ade. The seas are beyond polluted? 3ade."
"This ability to normalize the most atrocious of circumstances is what is allowing this creeping normalcy and subsequent ecocide to continue."
While activists continue to fight and raise awareness, the Lebanese political class remains ineffective and unconcerned with the growing crisis. And for many Lebanese citizens, after failed protests and years without elections, there seems to be little hope for change anytime soon ... unless change manifests through the results of the upcoming elections.