BEIRUT: The owners of restaurants and resorts in south Lebanon held a demonstration Monday calling on the government to compensate them for recent losses they suffered due to the growing pollution of the Litani River.
The state-run National News Agency reported that the protest took place at the so-called "February Six Bridge" over the Litani River in the Tyre district and was attended by several representatives of nearby municipalities, local residents and activists.
Local officials and residents warned that the situation could have a huge impact on the country’s economy and tourism sector.
The Litani River is a major source of water for local farmers, as well as a popular swimming spot for residents of areas in the south and the Bekaa Valley.
Tests conducted by the South Lebanon Water Authority indicate that 37 percent of the river’s water is polluted.
Sewage, human excrement and runoff from nearby quarries and other industries have turned the water from a clear blue to a brownish muck.
“We receive thousands of tourists from across Lebanon, and the crime of quarry and drilling operations has hurt our livelihoods and paralyzed the tourist sector,” said Hussein Abdel Hasan Ayad, the head of resorts in the town of Tayr Filsay.
Ayad warned the quarry owners that their next protest will be held at their place of work.
“Our next step will be to visit Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss the resolution of this issue,” he said.
Last week, the Lebanese Cabinet agreed to form a ministerial committee to address the ongoing environmental disaster in Lebanon’s vital river, in coordination with the Internal Security Forces.
The World Bank has also approved a $55 million loan for Lebanon to cleanup the river, Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk said last week.