Residents in the West Bekaa have been lately forced to flee their homes because of the heavily polluted Litani River, which is causing extremely dangerous diseases and unexpected high rates of cancer.
Lebanon’s longest river has become so polluted that the people who live nearby, especially in Bar Elias, find they have no other option than to pack up and leave. Others prefer to confine themselves to their homes rather than endure the sewage odor and that of the industrial and household wastes being dumped in the Litani.
Residents of Bar Elias claim that the Litani pollution has increased the cancer toll in the town; they are therefore calling upon the government and the concerned minister to take action immediately.
Experts are warning that high levels of chemical and bacterial contamination are reported in the river. Lab tests show bacterial contamination far above the standards for safe drinking water.
Local residents from the Bekaa Valley town of Hawsh al-Rafqa Monday have recently briefly blocked the main road to their village in protest against the pollution of the Litani River. The locals are also complaining that neighboring towns are dumping sewage into the river, causing a putrid odor and groundwater contamination. They are urging the government to enact measures to stop and prevent pollution after increased cases of cancer of the stomach, intestines and respiratory system were reported in the area.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri headed a ministerial meeting last week to follow up on the issue of the pollution of the Litani River and to discuss ways to repair the main water refining station in the central Bekaa Valley and refine water in the power plant.
Last year, the Lebanese Prime Minister, then serving as President, Tammam Salam, announced a national day for the Litani, saying that “the condition of the river is disastrous… we should save it before the river dies.”
There were several efforts to help save the river which culminated in the approval of a $55 million World Bank loan for projects to reduce pollution in the Litani River. The money would primarily focus on constructing sewage networks and connecting them to wastewater treatment plants to prevent untreated waste from being discharged into the river. At this stage, local residents can only hope and pray that these projects come to fruition.