SIDON/BEIRUT: The Litani River Authority evicted more than 300 Syrian refugees from an informal settlement in Sidon’s Bissarieh Monday as part of an ongoing crackdown against pollution resulting from untreated sewage.
This marks at least the fourth such eviction of Syrian refugees from an informal settlement in the past two months as the LRA steps up its campaign.
The LRA last year kicked off a campaign to remove all encroachments on the public land surrounding the Litani and the river itself, and has sought to end its decades-old pollution from industrial as well as human sources.
Those evicted Monday had settled inside an old soft drink factory. Those on the eastern flank of the factory were ordered to leave, while dozens of families remain on the western side. Outside the disused factory runs an irrigation channel, into which a Daily Star photographer observed wastewater being poured via a series of pipes.
Some of the roughly 60 families expelled found new shelter in nearby camps, while others are receiving basic assistance from the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, which is seeking alternative shelter for them.
“UNHCR has assisted and continues to assist the most vulnerable refugees who were residing in the building to support them to find alternative shelter options,” UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abou Khaled told The Daily Star.
One woman hanging clothes on a line outside the eastern side of the building said that they too would leave if they were asked to.
Hundreds of refugees have so far been displaced by the LRA’s campaign. In tandem, the authority has cracked down on factories that lie beside the Litani and its tributaries, shutting some down with help from the Industry Ministry.
In an escalation of its tactics last month, the LRA filed an urgent suit with the financial public prosecutor against 17 local and international NGOs, accusing them of endangering the lives of Lebanese and Syrians by supporting refugee settlements on or near the Litani that had not properly treated their sewage.
The 17 NGOs include international organizations such as Save the Children, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, Oxfam and the Danish and Norwegian refugee councils. Local NGOs include Himaya, Caritas Lebanon and the Amel Association International.
The authority has also filed suit against nine hospitals across the Bekaa Valley, accusing them of dumping their sewage in the Litani or its tributaries. In many of these areas, sewage networks are dilapidated or simply nonexistent, or sewage treatment plants are also either missing or broken down.
Work has begun on expanding the sewage network in the upper Litani basin, but is not expected to be completed until 2021.
This article was amended on Tuesday, April 02 2019
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Bissarieh as part of Tyre, when it is in fact in Sidon. The Daily Star regrets this error.