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Opening burning of waste in Lebanon risking health of residents

05, Jan 2018 | CJP Team

Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Bassam Khawaja, in a guest post for International Solid Waste Association, outlined HRW’s research into Lebanon’s mismanagement of waste. Khawaja wrote that this mismanagement has persisted “for decades, particularly in areas outside Beirut and Mount Lebanon,” resulting in the “dangerous and avoidable practice” of open burning of waste “at more than 150 dumps across the country every week”. Khawaja emphasised that this is “a legal and human rights issue,” because “Lebanon’s failure to stop the open burning and inform residents of the risks to their health violates its obligations under international human rights law.” Khawaja said that risks of smoke from burning waste have been well-documented, noting that it has “been linked to heart disease, cancer, skin conditions, and respiratory illnesses.” In a report published in December, HRW detailed the crisis; Khawaja said it was “based on more than 100 interviews with nearby residents, doctors, environmental experts and government officials.” He added that the majority of residents contacted “reported health issues consistent with prolonged exposure to smoke, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coughing, throat irritation, and asthma,” adding that residents “had almost no information” about the health risks of opening burning and how to tackle these. According to Khawaja’s post, “open burning appears to disproportionately take place in poorer” areas, with reports of it occurring outside schools “and even a hospital.” 

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