October 18, 2021

Catastrophic pollution looms in Libyan capital

https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/08/26/news/world/catastrophic-pollution-looms-in-libyan-capital/1812308

Libyans swim in the Mediterranean sea at the capital Tripoli's waterfront, on August 21, 2021. With untreated sewage in the water and rubbish piled on the sand, pollution on Tripoli's Mediterranean coast is denying the war-torn Libyan capital's residents a much-needed escape. AFP PHOTO

Libyans swim in the Mediterranean sea at the capital Tripoli’s waterfront, on August 21, 2021. With untreated sewage in the water and rubbish piled on the sand, pollution on Tripoli’s Mediterranean coast is denying the war-torn Libyan capital’s residents a much-needed escape. AFP PHOTO

TRIPOLI: With untreated sewage in the water and rubbish piled on the sand, pollution on Tripoli’s Mediterranean coast is denying residents of the war-torn Libyan capital a much-needed escape.

The environment ministry last month ordered the closure of a number of beaches along the 30-kilometer Greater Tripoli coastline despite the roasting summer heat.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Abdelbasset al-Miri, the ministry official in charge of monitoring the coast. “We need quick solutions for this problem because it harms the environment just as much as it harms people.”

Daily discharges of untreated sewage from the capital’s 2 million population make this the most polluted section of the North African country’s 1,770-kilometer coastline. Cans, plastic bags and bottles plague the water and shore.

On one beach, near a large hotel, open-air rivulets channel untreated wastewater into the sea where a few young men brave the contaminated waters in search of cool.

Libya’s infrastructure has been devastated by a decade of conflict, state collapse and neglect since the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-backed rebellion.

But Tripoli’s only sewage works closed years before that, like many industrial facilities, shuttered for lack of maintenance or funding.

As a result, all of Tripoli’s wastewater goes directly into the Mediterranean. “Huge amounts of sewage gets dumped in the sea every day,” said Sara al-Naami of Tripoli city council.

Laboratory tests have found “a high concentration of bacteria, 500 percent more than normal,” including E. Coli, at five sites along the capital’s coastline, she added.

“We have raised the issue of pollution in Tripoli’s seawater with the former and current governments, and emphasized the urgent need for a sanitation facility,” Naami said. But, she said, in the absence of such infrastructure, “temporary solutions” are needed, such as settling tanks, to filter wastewater before it reaches the sea.

A hard-won ceasefire last year led to a United Nations-backed government being installed several months ago with elections set for December. But day-to-day, Libyans continue to face power cuts, a liquidity crisis and biting inflation.

And for a country of 7 million where leisure facilities are almost nonexistent, swimming is a much-needed way to relax and cool down.

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