SIDON, Lebanon: The Municipality of Sidon and the Lebanese Union of Professional Divers launched a joint water safety initiative Thursday following the drowning of five people along the southern coastline this summer.
The project will include signage warning against swimming anywhere except the public beaches, lifeguards stationed at the Sidon public beach, beach cleaning activities and monitoring of water pollution levels.
Sidon’s Mayor Mohammad Saudi was joined by the head of the professional divers’ union, Mohammad Sargi, and local officials at Awali beach north of Sidon to announce the program, which was supported by several environmental organizations.
“This project has been launched from the capital of the south, Sidon, and then [it will be launched] in Mount Lebanon and the north, and will be implemented on two levels,” Sargi said.
The project’s first level, he said, is to warn residents and visitors against swimming in dangerous areas. He blamed sand theft for creating “water holes” with surprisingly strong currents that lure in unsuspecting swimmers. According to Sargi, four Syrians and one Lebanese have drowned while swimming off the southern coast.
The second phase includes posting warnings about harmful water pollution levels.
Sargi called on the municipalities of towns along Lebanon’s coast to “follow the municipality of Sidon as an example.”
Saudi praised the union’s efforts to maintain public safety.
“The municipality was [proud] to collaborate with the union because it is honest in its work and sincere” in its efforts to protect the environment and swimmers, he said.
“We are also proud to task the union with preparing a study on offshore waste near Sidon’s beach and means of removing it,” he added.
Future Movement general coordinator and divers’ union member Nasser Hamoud praised the project.
“I was intrigued by the issue of water testing,” Hamoud said, adding that he hoped the project’s administrators could cooperate with the parliamentary water committee.
Although this step comes at the end of the summer season and after Sidon’s public beach has officially closed, activists agreed that the initiative was an important step to prevent deaths by drowning.
However, some people continue to swim despite the new signs and efforts to raise awareness about the possible dangers.