Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani urged Lebanon's Cabinet on Monday to find an alternative plan for trash incineration plants pointing out to the dangers its entails on the environment and people.
“We are raising voices and sounding the alarm in order to set a national priority to provide care for all those harmed by the State's failure and negligence in securing a healthy environment,” the deputy PM said in a joint press conference with Human Rights Watch organization.
He urged the Cabinet to expedite a trash management plan assuring that random incineration directly impacts people's health and environment.
Hasbanai pointed out that Lebanon has around “940 random trash dumps and more than 150 sites where open-air waste is burned weekly."
Referring to a research study by the American University of Beirut he said: “The study has shown 77 percent of Lebanon's solid waste is either landfilled or improperly dumped. Burning waste in open air increases the risk of lung disease by 200 percent,” he stressed.
"The number of patients diagnosed with lung cancer in Lebanon is about 1212 while those diagnosed with colon cancer are more than 1090,” the Minister said.
Pointing to the rising cost of cancer medicines he said: “The drug cost for treating a lung-cancer patient is an average of $13000. The expense was $5000 in 2012, but advanced cancer drugs have increased the cost significantly.”
Hasbani called on the government to allocate additional budget funds to treat cancer patients, stressing “more actions will be taken to avoid health risks of this environmental disaster.”
In December, Human Rights Watch has warned in a report that open burning of waste in Lebanon poses serious health risks, blaming decades-old, across the board government failure.
The New York-based watchdog said the crisis, which escalated in 2015 when waste management largely collapsed across Lebanon, was a particular threat for children and old people, and constituted a rights violation.
It quoted research by the American University of Beirut that found 77 percent of Lebanon's waste is improperly dumped or landfilled when only 10 to 12 percent is considered impossible to compost or recycle.
HRW said the "vast majority" of the more than 100 residents living near open dumps whom its researchers interviewed suffered from respiratory problems.
The report said that besides its failure to set up a nationwide waste management program, the government was doing nothing to prevent open burning, to monitor its impact and inform the population of the risks.
The watchdog said those combined failures "violate Lebanon's obligations under international law, including the government's duties to respect and protect the right to health".
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