Water/Wastewater

  • What Caused Lebanon's Red River?

What Caused Lebanon's Red River?

Mar 26 2018 Read 1260 Times

A river in Lebanon caused no little concern for residents last month after it turned a strange reddish colour for reasons unknown.

Speculating that the discolouration was caused by an accumulation of pollution in the waters, locals to the town of Zahle posted pictures of the dark red river on social media, which fast went viral.

However, the Mayor of the central Lebanese town was quick to allay such fears, laying the blame at the feet of the local chocolate factory instead.

Willy Wonka’s day off?

The freak incident occurred on Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th of February, when Zahle locals noted that the Berdawni River was a discomfiting shade of red. Initially, it was feared that the phenomenon had occurred due to a build-up of littering and pollution, though the Mayor stepped in to clarify the situation.

Apparently, waste from the chocolate factory in a nearby village was illegally dumped at the gates of the Hzarta landfill, causing some of it to seep into the river and change its colour. Notwithstanding the challenges of treating waste in food processing, the act was still against the law and two suspects have been apprehended on suspicion of deliberate pollution.

Lebanese pollution crisis

This farcical episode is just the latest in a spate of pollution problems for the Middle Eastern country. In 2015, the largest landfill in Lebanon (located in Naameh) temporarily shut down, prompting a huge waste crisis which swept the nation.

Angry citizens took to the streets to express their frustration at the government, with the movement morphing into the “You Stink” campaign. As well as protesting the public health hazard caused by the closed landfill, the campaign was also intended to highlight rampant corruption among police and government officials.

Rivers running red all round the world

Though unusual, the discolouration of the Berdawni River is not the first time such an oddity has occurred. In 2014, a Chinese river in the province of Zhejiang turned red after an accumulation of an unknown pollutant, causing mass panic and concern among locals.

Meanwhile, the following year saw the Daldykan River run red in the Russian city of Norilsk. The episode is believed to have been caused by a leak from a nearby metallurgical factory in Nadezha, since a slurry pipeline runs nearby the river. Given that both of these instances were in fact caused by pollution, it’s easy to see why the Zahle populace jumped to the same conclusion this time around – though fortunately, the problem was nothing more serious than a surplus of chocolate.   

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