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Crops to be composted in Beirut port silos, burned after insect infestation

Beirut: Tons of wheat, maize and barley held at the port of Beirut since the devastating explosion in the city 16 months ago have to be disposed of because they are no longer suitable for consumption, it has been found.

As the temperature changes, mold, weevils and other insects make it impossible to access the contents of the silo on site without protective equipment; According to the World Health Organization, mold produces mycotoxins “which can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat to both humans and animals … ranging from acute toxicity to long-term effects such as loss of immunity. deficiency and to cancer.”

Before the explosion, the port’s silos contained about 45 tons of wheat, barley and maize, most of which was lost during the explosion. Environment Minister Nasser Yasin said six to seven tonnes were left at the site.

Laboratory tests run on wheat samples in collaboration with the Ministries of Economy, Agriculture and Environment, the American University of Beirut, Saint Joseph’s University, and the French Embassy, ​​which brought in experts to aid, showed that the crops were “not suitable for anyone.” There are neither human nor animal use.

In August, a year after the eruption, the remaining grains were removed from their silos and stored in the open air to reduce the risk of accidental fires in hot weather, but resulted in the death of crops suitable for consumption. happened.

The committee formed in the government of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab could not reach any solution.

Yassin told Arab News: “We decided to ferment these quantities and convert them into manure to be distributed for free to farmers, or turn them into industrial firewood for the Lebanese military to heat their units in the high mountains. Diya, or donated them to needy families living in cold regions.”

He continued: “Turning them into compost allows us to avoid any process that produces heavy metals, and we started this process with the help of the MAN group, which has developed a new system in France to treat organic waste resulting from the explosion. received funding from, and had signed a contract with the Lebanese State in May.

The grain is slated to be transported to the municipality of Zahle, which has a landfill site capable of treating the waste and turning it into compost and firewood.

Yasin said: “We want to produce 3,000 tonnes of manure and 3,000 tonnes of industrial firewood. We have so far been able to produce 500 tonnes of manure, which is an organic fertilizer and will be distributed free of cost to farmers and we have made special The production of 1,000 tonnes of industrial firewood has been completed through the press.

“Indeed, this type of firewood does not last long during burning, but we hope that it will ease the woes of those who cannot afford diesel for heating during the winter, and as an alternative We will stop the incident of felling of trees to secure firewood for houses as for diesel.

The port’s silos absorbed about 20 percent of the blast wave, resulting in 1,750 tons of ammonium nitrate being stored at the port along with the confiscated explosives. More than 220 people were killed, more than 6,500 were injured, and the city’s coast was destroyed.

Experts who initially examined the site insisted that the severely damaged wheat godowns would need to be demolished as they were on the verge of collapse.

Former Economy Minister Raul Nehme said in November 2020: “The government will demolish the silo due to public safety concerns.”

However, the Lebanese authorities have yet to act.

The wheat silos are made of a massive 48-metre concrete structure, built between 1968 and 1970, with a massive storage capacity of over 100,000 tons.

Silos, once considered a key element in Lebanon’s food security, have today become a symbol of devastation.