First it’s trash, now it’s birds! Lebanon’s airport faces new threat

A judge on Wednesday night issued an order to temporarily stop using the Costa Brava dump

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Lebanon’s trash crisis was not just a menace to the nation, but also a threat to the country’s only airport, Beirut Rafic Hariri Airport, - but now the danger has escalated.

Aircraft taking off and landing are at risk because of the large number of birds flying over the nearby garbage dump.

Since the dump was created in April 2016, the number of birds - mainly seagulls - has gradually increased, posing a major threat to aircraft movement.

According to experts, these types of birds may reach, when opening their wings, a width of 120 centimeters. They fly horizontally which means that they do not change their direction if they encounter a plane, and thus, may lead to a collision with the plane or entering into its engine.

However, the Lebanese judiciary overcame political slackness and activists who are following up the file have finally succeeded. A judge on Wednesday night issued an order to temporarily stop using the Costa Brava dump.


Al-Arabiya interviewed Hassan Bazzi, one of the lawyers in charge of this case, who is also a civil rights activist and the coordinator of the ‘People want to reform the system’ movement.

Bazzi said that he has already filed a lawsuit to close the Costa Brava dump, based on the violation of the Barcelona Convention agreement stipulating that no dump shall be created near airports.

He added that this dump has violated the Lebanese environmental protection law, in addition to international agreements on civil aviation preventing any dump within 9,000 to 12, 000 meters.

However, despite the reluctance of officials, the government stated that it will increase the number of devices to “scare away birds”. This has already garnered negative reactions. Activists on social networking sites described it as being a primitive method because the seagulls will get used to the sounds quickly, because it does not pose any threat to them.

Detailed study

Some officials believe that the dump is not the main reason behind the rise in these birds, pointing out to the Ghadir river that is contaminated. However, experts refuted this hypothesis and confirmed that the dump has strongly contributed to their increase. Bazzi highlighted this point saying that “the number of seagulls has multiplied by about 500 times” after the creation of the dump.

However, on a positive note, actions have also been initiated by the Lebanese pilots’ union and other organizations concerned about aviation safety, and have preceded the demands from civil society. Hamdi Shawq, former Director General of Civil Aviation, has sent a detailed study, in which he stressed on the need to avoid the establishment of dumps near the airport because garbage might pile up and with time, block the aircraft routes, attracting vultures and birds of prey, and emiting high methane gas that can affect the generators.