Establishing a No Fly Zone
Pollution solution in south Lebanon
text and photographs by Marilyn Raschka
Ask the village folk of Chacra in south Lebanon how they established a no fly zone and they wont tell you about putting aircraft prohibitions in place. Instead, they will tell you about using a smart, new system to get rid of their garbage.
By setting up a drumlike machine that can make compost from organic waste in a mere three days, Chacra has done away with the daily pall of smoke and odor from trash fires. The village has also successfully seen off the swarms of flies and mosquitoes that once besieged its residents.
Rural Lebanon faced serious environmental and health hazards from indiscriminate waste disposal after civil war engulfed the country from 1975 to 1990 destroying much of the countrys infrastructure and economy. But with grants from CNEWA, as part of its postwar village revitalization program, these communities are rebuilding and, importantly, implementing solutions for managing household waste in ways that reduce disease.
Ziad Abichaker, a young Lebanese biochemical engineer, worked out the system that solved Chacras garbage problem while studying for his masters degree at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Before coming to Chacra, Abichaker, 33, had already successfully installed the composting system in the north Lebanon villages of Kfar Sir and Douma. At these installations, he fine-tuned the drum rotation how the garbage moves from one compartment to another and how a mixture of enzymes and bacteria ferment the organic matter, transforming it into rich compost.
Traditional composting takes 60 to 70 days and draws more flies than fans. What made composting the ideal solution for Chacra is that the villages garbage is at least 80 percent organic. While in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 21 percent of its waste is diverted for recycling and composting. The cost of treating garbage at the Chacra facility is only $29 per ton and not the $118 per ton charged by the national contractor who handles Lebanons solid municipal waste.
A short distance from Chacra, the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) sits on the edge of a plateau that for many years was the dumping ground for the towns refuse. A few bloated black bags filled with vintage garbage still provide lunch for the small number of flies that buzz around wondering where their free meals have gone. Tin cans, old clothes and plastics add color but no beauty to the scene.
A wrecked tractor sits by the side of the road leading to the MRF. But both the trash and the tractor, although within feet of the entrance to the facility, are in no go areas. Land mines, left behind by the Israeli military when they withdrew from south Lebanon in May 2000, still lurk silently in the ground. One explosion killed the tractors driver.
But now that the people of Chacra are reasonably free from wartime worries, including the constant threat of Israeli raids on once-nearby Hezbollah guerrilla camps, their preoccupation with composting seems, by comparison, touchingly quaint.
One of the proudest days in the history of the village was when the Lebanese Minister of Industry, George Frem, along with Issam Bishara, CNEWAs Regional Director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and Raouf Youssef from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officially opened the MRF.
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Tags: Waste Pollution