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Lebanese Mobilization for Airport Safety over Bird Scare | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view shows a Middle East Airlines plane being taxied on the runway at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International airport in the Lebanese capital on January 12, 2017. JOSEPH EID / AFP
A judge has ordered the temporary closure of a rubbish dump near Beirut airport after warnings that birds attracted by the garbage were threatening aircraft safety, a lawyer said.


Beirut- The Lebanese government has mobilized to resolve the threat posed to aviation by a rising number of seagulls near Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has chaired meetings this week, the latest of which was on Thursday evening when a series of measures were taken to prevent gulls from approaching the airport.

The airport-adjacent Costa Brava landfill and Ghadir River are believed to be main attractions for the gathering gulls.

Judge of Urgent Matters Hassan Hamdan issued a ruling on Wednesday evening that ordered the temporary closure of the landfill pending answers from the health and agriculture ministries and the general-directorate of Lebanese Civil Aviation.

As a prompt move to limit the crisis, Hariri has previously decided to begin installing additional bird repellers at the airport to drive the birds away. The ultrasonic devices are meant to improve safety for airplanes taking off and landing.

But according to environmental activists, such repellers would not guarantee aviation safety. They called for the full closure of the Costa Brava landfill.

Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, who held the public works portfolio in the previous government, said that he had raised several warnings during cabinet sessions and via the media over the establishment of a landfill near the airport.

“The crisis exists even before the official establishment of the landfill,” Zoaiter told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. “Several municipalities used to dump waste randomly and without treatment in the area.”

The Lebanese authorities “can take several technical measures to resolve the crisis without having to close the landfill,” the minister said.

The Costa Brava tip – one of three landfills where the waste of Beirut and Mount Lebanon is dumped temporarily- was established in line with a government plan adopted in March 2016 after several months of a waste crisis in the country.

In August, the Lebanese Pilots Association warned that birds could strike the engines of planes at the airport.

Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos also warned several days ago that aviation safety was at risk as a result of the rising number of seagulls near the airport.

“The situation is dangerous and urgent,” he said.