Last summer, officials in Beirut, Lebanon closed their main landfill, but they forgot one important thing: they failed to provide for a replacement. Now a health crisis mounts as two million tons of trash spill into the streets, creating what people have begun to call a ‘river of trash’ that flows through the city, spewing garbage and toxins into the once-beautiful area.

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Four months ago, a ramshackle dump begun near buildings housing families, and overflowed into the streets. Now the river has grown to reportedly around two million tons of trash. Violent protests by the people have brought no reprieve, only armed resistance from the military.

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“This used to be such a beautiful place, but look at it now,” a local resident said to CNN. “We can’t even walk by it.”

The ugliness of the trash in a once-beautiful locale isn’t the biggest issue. Many believe that rain has flushed toxins from the trash into the water table. Experts say the garbage could increase pollution and disease. Those on the ground say the stench is already atrocious and will only increase with the arrival of summer’s heat.

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Some people tried to burn the trash, until the Health Minister said they had to stop. The American University of Beirut said burning the trash only results in carcinogens, lead, and arsenic polluting the air.

“Diseases, cancer, we’re dying here. Look at what they’re doing. The solution is we die slowly,” a local resident said to CNN. “Our concerns are for our children. We can tolerate it, but what about our kids?”

Lebanon, Beirut, river of trash, government, health crisis

Residents blame the unsanitary issue on the government, which has also struggled to provide reliable water and electricity. The refugee crisis has placed an additional strain on a government marked by infighting and corruption.

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Authorities attempted to send their trash to Russia via a British firm, but the firm didn’t submit the paperwork required to prove Russia would take the trash in time.

A spokesperson from Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction said they currently had no solutions but were working on the issue.


Images via screenshot and Getty Images