In the wake of the Beirut blast, a staggering 40,000 buildings were destroyed, and 2,000 of those were completely damaged. It comes as no surprise that this immense destruction left behind rubble and debris all over the area, adding waste to a city already grappling with a solid waste crisis.
As part of our immediate relief efforts and long-term recovery plan to build Lebanon forward, we immediately prioritized support to manage debris and teamed up with partners to assess damage and waste in the vicinity of the explosion.
Immediate response by UNDP
We partnered with the EU, other UN agencies and the Ministry of Environment on the environmental response to the Beirut blast.
We created an online assessment linked to a GIS mapping system. This tool will be used quantify the debris information, in addition to waste and other environmental concerns from the area outside the port. International experts also supported by providing technical insight into the tool and training on the methodology. .
“The aim of this assessment is to know how we will manage and treat solid waste in a way that does not harm the environment,” shares Manar El Harake, Information Management Officer at UNDP.
We are also working with the Ministry of Environment, NGOs, other UN agencies universities such as Universite Saint Joseph and others to determine the most appropriate temporary waste storage sites as well as the final treatment solutions for the waste including sorting, recycling and disposal in line with international best practices.
Alongside us are over 75 volunteer engineers from Frontline Engineers, working relentlessly to collect data from the ground.
“What made me volunteer is my love for the country. I am from Beirut and to be honest I was hurt. Even if it was not physical, but I was hurt,” says Abed.
Their backgrounds, specializations, and years of experience widely differ yet their love and commitment to their city unites them in the mission to building Lebanon forward.
“After what happened in Beirut, we were all affected. And we decided to help, each according to their ability and specialization,” says Josephine.
The situation, exacerbated by Covid-19, was not to be taken lightly, and the safety of the volunteers working on field was our priority.
As soon as we commenced work, we received and distributed a shipment of personal protective equipment. It included hard hats, masks, gloves, and equipment that will protect the volunteers. We also collaborated with several universities to distribute awareness raising material for public safety and health regarding debris collection and cleaning efforts.
Tents are now installed in five different main zones divided by teams, within each is a group of volunteering nurses making sure all engineers are safe and well provided for in case of emergency. A receptionist in every tent is also managing the arrival of new volunteers and personal protective equipment.
Long term waste management plan necessary in building Lebanon forward
Lebanon already had a huge solid waste crisis prior to the blast. The latter has therefore exacerbated the problem and unleashed an additional amount of toxic waste hazardous to the health and the environment.
As such, the waste management solutions that will be designed will take this existing situation into consideration while providing long-term solutions that will fit into the development agenda of Lebanon. Unfortunately, the prevailing situation makes it more difficult and time consuming to design viable treatment plans but we hope this momentum will be the change needed for a greener long-term recovery..