Purification of toxic waste highlights the lack of governance in Beirut

I don’t often celebrate in Lebanon these days. So I was surprised to be invited to a party to say goodbye to 1,000 tonnes of toxic waste at the wrecked port of Beirut.

Nine months have passed since explosive chemicals were stored in poorly maintained port warehouses. Blowed up More than 200 people have died in the Lebanese capital.In the official survey Disturbed Due to political interference, the victim’s family is still waiting for an answer as to who was responsible for the disaster. Meanwhile, the states are responsible for being hampered by mismanagement and corruption since the end of the country’s civil war in 1990.

At the end of last month, I was relieved to stand on the quay with other guests and see containers of dangerous chemicals lifted into tankers bound for Germany, where specialized incinerators dispose of them. However, I could not help feeling sad that the Lebanese people were properly protected from such dangers, resulting in such destruction and the death of 200 people.

The discovery of a second store of leaking, almost unidentified chemicals that had been suffering for years in the port of Beirut was what went wrong in the Mediterranean country, and civilians to clear up the turmoil. Evidence of how often it was entrusted to.

In this case, Heiko Felderhoff, CEO of Combi Lift, a German maritime logistics company, took the initiative. He was shocked by the destruction he saw when the German government asked him to go to Beirut the day after the blast. “I think it made the decision [to take the job] A little more human [than commercial]”Felderhof says. He agreed to begin work to remove the remaining dangerous chemicals that the port authorities finally found to be on site.

He and his team spent the next seven months identifying chemicals and identifying the best ways to make them safe. There was no paperwork, no explanation of how they got there, no way to know what they were. Neither the port authorities considered any of the four security services present at the port to be suitable for dealing with them.

Smoke rises after the explosion at the port the day before © AP

Felderhoff scrolled through the video on his smartphone to show the corroded containers and bubbling sludge the team encountered and finally packed them into 59 shipping containers. “We were the only private company that did something,” he says, gesturing the destruction that is still damaging the harbor — twisted metal, piled up car accidents, and piles of garbage. He looks indignant. “Private companies are cleaning up the turmoil.”

The combilift even paid for the initial cost of cleanup. The Lebanese government has promised to pay $ 2 million out of a total cost of $ 3.6 million, but is in a financial crisis and is running out of dollars.Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab Told FT He found a solution in March, but a $ 1 million letter of credit was issued because there were no ships carrying waste until he received the money in Germany. The remaining $ 1 million will be paid when the ship arrives.

Many multilateral and international organizations have offered to support Beirut in the wake of the explosion. However, Felderhof said he would not fund the operation of the combilift because he did not follow the procurement protocol. “If your house is on fire, you don’t go bidding everywhere,” he says. He is currently discussing with the German government about the remaining $ 1.6 million in funding he owes.

On the quay, a local ally who helped clean up stood by Felderhof, shaking off toxic cargo. Elias Asouad, chairman of the Lebanese German Business Council, who helped smoothly overcome bureaucratic obstacles in a short speech, accused the harbor of destruction of “abuse by corrupt officials” and urged members of security forces to leave. Prompted.

Nine months after the blast, the government remains to survive the devastation. Although seemingly unaware of the urgency of the Lebanese crisis, the politicians in the conflict were unable to form a new cabinet.

“Toxic waste is being generated,” said a Lebanese party attendee. “But the source [of the problem] I’m still here. “

Purification of toxic waste highlights the lack of governance in Beirut

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