The issue of birds that threaten flight safety at the Rafik Hariri International Airport returned to the spotlight on Wednesday as Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered measures to keep the birds away and a judge ordered the closure of the controversial Costa Brava garbage landfill.
After talks with Hariri that followed a cabinet session, Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos said the premier instructed the Council for Development and Reconstruction during the meeting to “do everything necessary to push birds away from the airport’s vicinity.”
The setting up of a garbage landfill in the Costa Brava near the airport has largely contributed to increasing the number of birds, mainly seagulls, in the area. The nearby al-Ghadir River also attracts birds to the area.
Fenianos said Hariri also asked the energy and water minister and the head of the CDR to “take immediate measures” at al-Ghadir River to “fend off this threat to flight safety.”
According to the minister, Hariri ordered increasing the number of auditory repellents in the airport’s vicinity and at the Costa Brava landfill.
Fenianos also reassured that according to reports from the airport authorities, “there has been no real threat to flight safety,” noting that the auditory bird repellents “have proved effective.”
“Addressing the mouth of al-Ghadir River is an essential stop to end the problem,” he added.
The activist movement “You Stink” mocked the measures.
“What are you waiting for to close Costa Brava… for a plane to crash or an international decision to shut the airport,” they wrote on Facebook.
“The solution is not to scare the birds away,” they said, urging the dump be closed.
Later in the day, Mount Lebanon Urgent Matters Judge Hassan Hamdan ordered a “temporary closure of the Costa Brava landfill due to the presence of seagulls,” state-run National News Agency reported.
Earlier on Wednesday, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat called for “pushing the garbage landfill away from Beirut’s airport to avoid a disaster.”
“We were about to witness the disaster yesterday,” he tweeted.
According to LBCI television, a Middle East Airlines plane had encountered “a large group of birds” as it was touching down Tuesday on the airport’s western tarmac.
“This tarmac has been temporarily put out of use pending a solution to the birds issue,” LBCI added.
The Costa Brava dump was created in March 2016, as one of three “temporary” dumps intended to provide an interim solution to the closure of the main landfill receiving waste from Beirut.
Under a government plan intended to end the crisis caused by the landfill’s closure, the dumps were eventually intended to have waste processing facilities, but that has not happened.
As a result, garbage has piled up in Costa Brava, on the coastline close to the runways at Beirut’s international airport, reaching nine meters in some places and wafting foul odors nearby.
Environmentalists have for months warned that the dump is attracting rodents and increasing numbers of birds, posing potential risk for aviation.
In August, the Lebanese pilots’ union warned of the possibility of the birds being sucked into airplane engines.
A permanent solution for the waste produced by Beirut and its surroundings has yet to be found, months after the Naameh landfill was shuttered.
The issue is one of many outstanding challenges that remain to be resolved by Lebanon’s new government, formed on December 18 after some two and a half years of political paralysis.