In Lebanon, a garden blooms on former 'trash mountain'

Lebanon's southern city of Sidon is best known for its Crusader castle and ancient market, but a more modern landmark has marred its Mediterranean shoreline for decades -- a towering "mountain" of trash.

Sidon: Lebanon's southern city of Sidon is best known for its Crusader castle and ancient market, but a more modern landmark has marred its Mediterranean shoreline for decades -- a towering "mountain" of trash.

In the summer, reeking fumes hung over the city, and fires broke out at the dump. Rubbish washed out to sea reaching Cyprus, 160 miles away in the Mediterranean, and was pushed across the city by winter storms.

But now an ambitious project is putting an end to the towering nightmare, transforming it into a seaside park that local officials hope will inspire others dealing with Lebanon's many dumps.

"We were talking about... A trash mountain right next to houses," said Mayor Mohamed al-Saudi, who came to office in the city of 200,000 pledging to deal with the dump.

"It's gone from a 190-foot trash mountain to an eight-metre green mound... We've cleaned up the sewage, and the trash mountain is gone."

The project began with the installation of a seawall around the eyesore site and the coastline to the south, preventing waves from impeding work or taking rubbish out to sea.

Then the site was closed to further deliveries, with the city's waste going to a new processing facility further south.
The mountain started life as a dump for rubble about 10 years into the country's 1975-1990 civil war, and tests showed around 60 percent of the heap was material from destroyed buildings.

When sorting began in mid-2013, much of that rubble was treated and used to reclaim land between the seawall and the beach in the area south of the dump.

Next year, 33,000 square metres of that land will open as a public park, planted with hundred-year-old olive trees and featuring a small amphitheatre.

The rest of the dump was ploughed into a sanitary landfill, lined and covered with protective plastic membranes. (AFP) 

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