Harvests from silos in the port of Beirut will be composted and burned after the discovery of an insect infestation
BEIRUT: Tons of wheat, corn and barley stored at the port of Beirut since the devastating explosion that rocked the city 16 months ago must be disposed of as they are no longer fit for consumption, a- we aknowledge.
As temperatures change, molds, weevils and other insects have made it impossible to access the contents of the site’s silos without protective equipment; According to the World Health Organization, molds produce mycotoxins “which can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious threat to the health of humans and livestock … ranging from acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer ”.
Before the explosion, the port’s silos held around 45 tonnes of wheat, barley and corn, most of which was lost in the explosion. Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said six to seven tonnes remained at the site.
Laboratory tests carried out on wheat samples in cooperation with the ministries of economy, agriculture and the environment, the American University of Beirut, Saint-Joseph University and the French Embassy, who called in experts, showed that crops “are not suitable for one or the other”. human or animal use.
In August, a year after the explosion, the remaining grains were removed from their silos and stored in the open to reduce the risk of accidental fires in hot weather, but had the effect of accelerating the disappearance of crops. suitable for consumption.
A committee formed under the government of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab failed to come to a solution.
Yassin told Arab News: “We have decided to ferment these quantities and turn them into compost to distribute for free to farmers, or turn them into industrial firewood to give to the Lebanese army to heat its units in the high mountains. , or donate it. to needy families living in cold regions.
He adds: “Converting them into compost makes it possible to avoid any process producing heavy metals, and we started this process with the help of MAN Group, which obtained funding from France to treat organic waste from the explosion, and had signed the contract with the Lebanese state in May.
The cereals should be transported to the municipality of Zahlé, which has a landfill capable of treating the waste and turning it into compost and firewood.
Yassin noted, “We are looking to produce 3,000 tonnes of compost and 3,000 tonnes of industrial firewood. So far, we have been able to produce 500 tons of compost, which is an organic fertilizer and will be distributed free of charge to farmers, and we have finished producing 1000 tons of industrial firewood through special presses.
“Indeed, this type of firewood does not last long while it is burning, but we hope that it will alleviate the distress of people who cannot buy diesel for heating during the winter and will slow down the phenomenon of cutting trees to secure firewood for homes as an alternative. diesel.
The port’s silos absorbed about 20% of the shock wave, resulting from the storage of 1,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the port alongside seized explosives. More than 220 people have died, more than 6,500 have been injured and the city’s waterfront has been destroyed.
Experts who initially examined the site stressed that the wheat silos, which were badly damaged, should be demolished as they were on the verge of collapse.
Former Economy Minister Raoul Nehme said in November 2020: “The government will demolish the silos due to public safety concerns.”
However, the Lebanese authorities have yet to take action.
The wheat silos consist of a giant 48-meter concrete structure built between 1968 and 1970, with an enormous storage capacity of over 100,000 tonnes.
Once considered a key element of Lebanon’s food security, the silos have now become the symbol of disaster.