Hello, Lebanon. It’s your friendly Green Patriot. I am here to discuss a topic that we know far too much about: warfare. Naturally, this is something we tend to discuss in political terms; Israelis versus Lebanese, Muslims versus Christians, Syrian and Palestinian involvement in the civil war, etc. Yet, we never really talk about how one major long term implication. How does warfare affect our environment?
 
The use of bombs, the destruction of infrastructure, the destruction of ships that have oil in them, the use of mines, and the compromising situation that war puts us in all have a devastating effect on the environment. Our air, water and soil become contaminated with chemicals and debris, our fertile land becomes unfit for agriculture, and because of the contamination in our water and soil, we suffer long term health effects.
In July 2006 alone, we suffered enormous environmental damage.
For example, the Israelis bombed a power station in Jiyyeh. The storage tanks leaked roughly 20,000 tons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. The oil spill spread rapidly, covering over 90 km of our coastline, affecting one third of our beaches, killing marine life and affecting the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle. Many of you remember that a layer of sludge covered our beaches, and while there was a beach clean-up effort, (applause to those who participated!), it could not rectify all of the damage. To make matters worse, part of the oil that spilled burned, causing air pollution. This affects us as we breathe the air and suffer the consequences of war. Nor does this damage stop with us. It affects Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, and even Greece.
 
Nor was this the only environmental problem that ensued after the July 2006 war. The number of people that were displaced numbers in the hundreds of thousands. People could not attend to their farms, and many had their agricultural lands in the South and the Bekaa blown up. Not only does this make the land difficult to use for agricultural purposes, but the chemicals affect our water. This contamination remains in the water and soil for years if left untreated. The side effects of both the oil damage, air pollution, and soil pollution leave us with problems such as an increase in the risk of cancer, headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rash. If the doses of contaminants are high enough over a prolonged period of time, they could cause death.
 
These are the effects of a 34 day war. Hmmm.
 
My fellow Lebanese, we need to rehabilitate the beautiful country that is ours, and try our best to avoid armed conflict. We can rehabilitate the land in simple ways, such as:
 
Bioremediation: This process involving microbial digestion of certain organic chemicals. Techniques used in bioremediation include using  with commercially available microflora to “eat up” the contaminants”.
This is inexpensive and eco-friendly.
 
Water Extraction: Extraction of groundwater and/soil water with an active electromechanical system.  When extracted, the contaminants are stripped from the water and then the water is clean for use.

Phytoremediation: Using plants (such as willow) to extract heavy metals; this is particularly useful as bombs and mines tend to leave heavy metal residue. This too is both inexpensive and effective.

I can hear people saying things like, “I don’t want war, but tell the other side!” Or “people die during warfare, and this is your concern?”
 
That’s my point, Lebanon. People do die and suffer, and it’s not only during active warfare. We perpetuate the suffering of our people this way, and there is no need for it! If we focus on rehabilitating our naiton and avoiding armed conflict, we can create a better environment for ourselves, our children, and a brighter future for the country that we are so proud to call ours. We can do it!
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