Pollution from various sources particularly affects the terrestrial, marine and coastal and freshwater ecosystems. The causes behind this phenomenon are listed in the paragraphs below.
The sources of pollution of the terrestrial ecosystem are:
- The discharge of untreated municipal wastewater due to the lack of infrastructure and treatment plants and the absence of adequate policies.
- The discharge of untreated industrial effluents due to the economic profit to industries.
- The improper solid waste disposal from livestock, farms etc. through the creation of open uncontrolled dumps.
- Wars during which illegal chemicals are used and fuel leaks occur causing major pollution problems.
- Agro-industries that use excessive quantities of pesticides, fertilizers and agrochemicals. According to FAO, Lebanon consumed 78,840 tons of fertilizers in 2002 with an average rate of fertilizers of 414 kg/ha.
- Agriculture is considered to be an important energy consumption sector. Agriculture is increasingly dependent on the direct use of lubricants and fuels to operate farm vehicles and machinery; and use of gasoline, liquid propane, and electricity to power dryers, pumps, lights, heaters, and coolers) and indirect input (use of fossil fuels to produce fertilizers) of fossil fuels. If not managed properly, lubricants, fuels and other chemicals that are used in the agricultural sector could be a source of pollution to the surrounding environment and could contribute to climate change (emission of pollutants).
- Healthcare waste that is usually discharged into the environment with no prior treatment.
- Gas Emissions from industries, incineration processes, cars and transportation (Figure 1).
Figure.1 Lebanon’s Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions Summary for the Year 2000
Other causes include the lack of law enforcement and funding and insufficient awareness and knowledge regarding the impacts of pollution on the terrestrial ecosystem.
The sources of pollution of the marine and coastal ecosystem are:
- Industrial waste (liquid and solid) caused by the lack of political will, the weak enforcement of legislative texts, the lack of waste management and infrastructure.
- Domestic waste due to the absence of waste water treatment.
- Potential spills due to geopolitical reasons, for instance the intentional major oil spill during the Israeli War on Lebanon in 2006, and the absence of an oil and gas contingency plan.
- Shipping and the discharge of ballast water which contain pollutants that occur due to the absence of maritime regulation.
- Agricultural waste disposal (pesticides etc.) contaminate marine waters. Other root causes include the lack of law enforcement, awareness and social behaviors (open dumping of solid waste and wastewater, overgrazing, overfishing, illegal construction, etc.).
- Air Pollution (acidification) due to transportation and industrial activities.
The sources of pollution of the freshwater ecosystem are:
- Insufficient collection and treatment of domestic wastes mainly due to poor governance, insufficient funds, rapid population growth, lack of sufficient coordination between CDR/ MoEW/ municipal authorities, outdated legal framework, poor enforcement of existing laws and low human capacity. Solid waste affects freshwater quality, sea grasses and marine turtles and changes the habitats of fish, birds and mammals, and impact their distribution and growth.
- Excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture related to the limited extension staff for the MoA, the poor management system, the illegal entry of chemicals, pilot projects which did not have a sustainable impact owing to a lack of funding, little promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) initiatives.
- Industrial pollution that results from the lack of accountability and application and enforcement of the law, the absence of effective incentives and fines, and the non-application of the ‘polluter pays principle’ that holds people accountable for their actions.
- Pollution caused by tourism activities results from tourists’ indifference, the lack of awareness by tourist operators and law enforcement and the absence of environmental conditions attached to tourism activity permits.