River of Garbage in Beirut as Torrential Rains Compound Garbage Crisis


After a night of heavy rains, the people of Beirut woke to discover flooded streets full of garbage.

As the growing garbage crisis that has spurred massive protests of the ‘YouStink’ movement nears the three-month mark, the people of Beirut are now faced with the growing threat of disease.

In the beginning of September, the ministry of health highlighted that the risks of prolonging the garbage crisis into Lebanon’s cold, wet fall and winter seasons.

Rain flooding mounds of uncollected garbage can cause toxic fluids to seep into the earth, it said in an online statement, contaminating crops with bacteria including salmonella.

It also cautioned that metals like nickel and mercury can infect the water supply, increasing the risk of long-term illness including cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Protests began in July when residents of Naameh, a town south of Beirut, barricaded one of the country’s largest landfills and called it a health hazard. With no alternative dump site, garbage collection in two governorates, Beirut and neighboring Mount Lebanon, came to a near standstill. Trash continued to pile up on the capital’s streets, prompting thousands to demonstrate against the government’s inability to find a solution to the crisis.

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Grievances quickly expanded to include frustration with decades of government inefficiency, corruption and its failure to provide basic services including water and power, both of which are regularly shut off.


The presidency in Lebanon has been vacant for over a year, and the government of national unity has been maintaining the position of central authority in the country. Amid war in neighboring Syria, the 2009 elected parliament in Lebanon has extended its term on the grounds of regional instability, postponing parliamentary elections until 2017.



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