ICE Case Studies

Case Number: 65

Case Mnemonic: LEBANON

Case Name: Lebanon Civl War and Waste Dumping


1. Abstract

An Italian firm, Jelly Wax, allegedly shipped over 2,400 tones of chemical wastes to Lebanon between September, 1987 and June, 1988 through ports outside Lebanese government control. On June 5, 1988, barrels of Italian hazardous wastes were discovered on the Kerswan shore, north of Beirut. Soon barrels that had been dumped at sea were discovered by fishermen in the southern port of Tyre, to the south of Beirut. An additional 2,411 tones of wastes were discovered in East Beirut and Ghazir, 25 kilometers north of Beirut. After initial government inability to force Rome to remove the wastes, threats by Lebanese terrorist organizations led to Italian clean-up efforts.

2. Description

On June 5, 1988, barrels of Italian wastes were discovered on the Kerswan shore, East Beirut and Ghazir. A Lebanese scientist was hospitalized after he fell ill while inspecting some of the barrels of waste. "We are facing a new kind of war," said one Lebanese citizen. "Maybe we can avoid shells and bullets. But how can we avoid pollution?" The wastes in East Beirut and Ghazir had been unloaded by the Radhost, a waste trading vessel, in mid-May. The Radhost, owned by the Czechoslovakia Ocean Shipping Company, attempted to deliver these wastes to Venezuela in late 1987. According to a Christian Lebanese television station, Lebanese businessman named Roger Haddad had demanded $500,000 in U.S. dollars for taking the wastes from Jelly Wax.

The Italian ambassador Antonio Mancini later met with Lebanese Acting Prime Minister Salim Hoss in June to negotiate an agreement to remove the wastes. Italy offered to pay $3 million in U.S. Dollars toward the clean up costs, but Lebanon demanded that Italy pay the entire cost. Senior Lebanese officials encouraged Hoss to recall the Lebanese ambassador from Rome or to freeze diplomatic ties with Italy to pressure Italy to fund the entire clean up. Hoss did neither.

On June 23, 1988 an anonymous caller from the "Organization of Preserving the Lebanese Right" threatened to physically attack Italian interests in Lebanon unless the Italian government removed the wastes within one week. The threat of terrorist reprisal did spur the Italian government to action, in contrast to the ineffectual efforts of the government of Lebanon. Two vessels, the Vorais Sporiades (formerly the Jumbo Trust) and the Yvonne/A, reloaded the wastes in July and August 1988, but were still in Lebanese waters in early November. They remained at anchor, awaiting Italian government orders to return to Italy.(1) On December 15, 1988, the Italian government announced that the waste would be shipped to the Italian port of La Spezia. The mayor of La Spezia agreed to this, provided the wastes were identified and the stay in port was limited.

In March, 1989, the Lebanese delegate to the Basel Convention, Dr. Milad Jarjouhi, reported on imports of Italian waste. A total of 16,000 barrels and numerous other containers of chemical wastes were, Jarjouhi claimed, delivered as raw materials and recycling goods to numerous Lebanese companies by "Italian Mafia-dealers," who, it was discovered, had simply left the wastes or had shipped it into the mountains. He showed photographs of children who suffered from cauterized patches of skin. He also said that there were still 9,000 barrels "lost in the mountains." Pierre Malychef was commissioned in 1987 to run an inquiry into the Italian dumping and nearly died from an assasin's bullet. He believes that the Italian company paid between $12 and $22 million for disposal. The manifest on the shipment described it as "raw material for industry and agriculture."(2) In 1994, Malychef was asked to look into such imports once again. Lebanon has demands that Italy pay to take back the waste and to decontaminate the landfills, but Italy refuses, threatening to halt reconstruction assistence. Belgium was forced to repatriate crushed palstics mixed with chemicals that it had exported for disposal in Lebanon. In January, 1998, OECD countries agreed not to export waste outside of OECD, even when it can be used as a raw material for another industry. The problem of waste dumping continues today due to the weak powers of the Lebanese government and the control of the country by various other countries and factions. Ali Darwish of GreenLine, a Lebanese environmental group, points to the "Normandy" dumpsite near Beruit. After the war, various construction and building projects began in these polluted areas by parties who had ties to the government. These complexes will sit on contaminated lands. Imports only compound a bad situation. Lebanese industry itself dumps tremendous amounts of pollution into the counbtry's air, land and water. In the norther city of Chekka, ground water is contaminated with an insecticide banned in the EU. Altogether, 326,000 tons of waste are dumped in rivers and the sea of Lebanon alone.

3. Duration: 1987-now

4. Location

Continent: Mideast

Region: Mideast Asia

Country: Lebanon

5. Actors: Lebanon and Italy

II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Pollution Land and Sea

7. Type of Habitat: Ocean

8. Act and Harm Sites: Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon

III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: Civil

10. Level of Conflict: High

11. Fatality Level of Dispute: 5

III. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: Direct

Causal Diagram

13. Level of Strategic Interest: Substate

14. Outcome of Dispute: Compromise

IV. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE Cases



SUDAN case

MARSH case



NILE case

bluenile case


16. Relevant Websites and Literature


1.  APS Diplomat (June 27, 1988); Greenpeace Italy; Greenpeace Netherlands; Ria
Kaj, UPI (July 18, 1988); Reuters News Reports (June 16/23/29, 1988); (July
2/11/14 1988); "Toxic Wastes to Italy," Dagens Nyheter (Sweden, June 8, 1988);
Voice of Lebanon via BBC Monitoring Service, June 23, 1988.

2.  "Environment-Lebanon: Building on Top of the World's Toxic Waste", IPS,
Beruit, June 3, 1998.

3.  "Environment-Lebanon: Building on Top of the World's Toxic Waste", IPS,
Beruit, June 3, 1998.


Anderson, Harry.  "The Global Poison Trade."  Newsweek 112
     (Nov. 7, 1988): 66-8.
Dufour, Jean-Paul and Denis, Corinne. "The North's Garbage goes 
     South."  World Press Review 35 (Nov. 1988): 30-2.
"Ending the Traffic in Toxic Waste."  UN Chronicle 26 (June 
     1989): 71. 
"Environment-Lebanon: Building on Top of the World's Toxic Waste",
     IPS, Beruit, June 3, 1998.
"Hazardous Wastes Spark EC Dispute."  Transportation and 
     Distribution 33 (Feb. 1992): 20.
Henwood, Douglas.  "Toxic Banking."  The Nation 254 (Mar. 2 
     1992): 257.
Hilz, Christoph.  The International Toxic Waste Trade. 
     New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992.
"Inside the Poison Trade."  Videorecording/Central Independent 
     Television and Belbo Film co-production in association with the
     Television Trust for the Environment.  North Brook, II: MTI Film and
     Video, 1990
Kaj, Ria.  UPI (July 18, 1988). 
Millman, Joel.  "Exporting Hazardous Waste."  Technology Review  
     92 (Apr. 1989): 6-7.
O'Sullivan, Dermot A.  "UN Environment Program Targets Issue of 
     Hazardous Waste Exports."  Chemical Engineering News  66 (Sept. 26
     1988): 24-7 
Phillips, Andrew.  "Poison in Poor Lands."  Mclean's 101
     (August 1, 1988): 51-2
Reuters News Reports (June 16/23/29, 1988 and 
     July 2/11/14, 1988).
Ruffins, Paul.  "Toxic Terrorism Invades Third World Nations." 
     Black Enterprise 19 (November 19, 1988): 31.
"Toxic Wastes: Poisoning the Planet."  UN Chronicle 29 (June 
     1992): 61.
"Toxic Wastes to Italy."  Dagens Nyheter (Sweden, June 8, 1988).

November, 1997