Judge orders Beirut dump shut after birds threaten flights
12 Jan 2017 - 11:55
Beirut: A judge has ordered the temporary closure of a rubbish dump near Beirut airport after warnings that birds attracted by the garbage were threatening aircraft safety, a lawyer said Thursday.
"There is a court decision... to close the doors and prevent the entry of any trucks," said Hani al-Ahmadiya, a lawyer and campaigner against the Costa Brava dump.
The decision was also reported by Lebanon's National News Agency, which said judge Hassan Hamdan issued the decision "because of the presence of birds" attracted by the garbage.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Yusef Fenianos acknowledged the problem posed by the increasing numbers of birds at the refuse tip.
"Today we face an emergency... we recognise that there is a danger posed to civil aviation movement by the birds," he said after a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Costa Brava was opened in March last year as one of three "temporary" tips intended to provide an interim solution after the closure of the main landfill receiving waste from Beirut.
The dumps were eventually intended to have waste processing facilities, but that has not happened.
As a result, garbage has piled up in Costa Brava, on the coastline close to the airport runways, reaching nine metres (30 feet) in some places.
Environmentalists have for months warned that the dump is attracting rodents and increasing numbers of birds.
In August, the Lebanese pilots' union warned of the possibility of the birds being sucked into airplane engines.
Fenianos said the problem would be tackled by installing additional devices emitting high-pitched frequencies and bird of prey calls to scare away the nuisance birds.
But activists from the "You Stink" protest movement, launched during the height of the garbage crisis, mocked the measure.
"What are you waiting for to close Costa Brava... for a plane to crash or an international decision to shut the airport," they wrote on Facebook.
Speaking from outside the dump on Thursday, Ahmadiya confirmed that the site was closed to new refuse.
"The decision is only temporary." he said. "It will be up to the judge whether to extend or rescind it."
A permanent solution for the waste produced by Beirut and its surroundings has yet to be found, months after the Naameh landfill was shuttered and garbage began piling up on the capital's streets.
The issue is one of many outstanding challenges for Lebanon's new government, which was formed on December 18 after two years of political deadlock.