The World Daily
Banks of Lebanese river pile with corpses of dead fish

Tonnes of dead fish wash up on shore of polluted Lebanese lake


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | APRIL 30th 2021


Due to pollution, tonnes of dead fish have ended up piling up on the banks of the Litani river in Lebanon, the longest river in the country, sparking renewed fears over environmental wellness.

Volunteering projects have already begun cropping up for the task of clearing off the banks of Lebanon’s Litani river, near the Qaraoun lake. The smell of the massive collection of fish carcasses has already begun to spread and cause distress to residents of a village nearby. Officially, the blame for the incident has been placed on pollution.

Environmental groups and activists in Lebanon have been warning authorities and companies about the dangerous repercussions of pollution to the rivers’ waters for years now. The dumping of waste and sewage into the waters is the primary cause of the pollution, according to the activists.

“This phenomenon appeared on the shore of the lake several days ago,” said a local activist, Ahmad Askar. “The fish started floating up, and in abnormal quantities...It’s unacceptable.”

The dire need to quickly clean up the mess goes beyond the concern over a spread of unpleasant smells – the carcasses of the fish had begun to decay extremely quickly. Flies were quick to set in, speeding up the decomposition process and adding further risk of pollution to the already filthy river near which a number of people live.

“It's our third day here picking up dead fish,” said Nassrallah el-Hajj, from the Litani River Authority, having added that thus far they had already “carried away around 40 tons” of the rotting carcasses. Volunteers got to work with shovels and wheelbarrows, removing the many decaying fish carcasses by way of a waiting truck.

The corpses have been piling up for days now, slowly and gradually, leading to the Litani River Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon giving out a warning on Friday which stated that fishing along the river ought to be avoided due to the rise of “an aggravated disaster that threatens public health.”

The calls for fishing to be banned along the river and lake had at first been sparked by fears of a “viral epidemic” affecting the river. It appeared as though the ‘disease’ had only affected carp, as four other species of fish were observed to be unaffected.


It was proposed only afterwards, by water expert Kamal Slim, that the more likely cause for the deaths was pollution. Slim had been studying and sampling the lake for 15 years, observing the changes to the water’s contents. He stated that “Without analysis, we cannot be decisive.”

The fish in the river were dubbed ‘unfit for human consumption’ back in 2018 – an announcement that was followed by a ban on fishing in the polluted waters. Despite this, the fish have still been appearing in markets since the ban, and fishermen reportedly continue to work along the banks on occasion.

Slim suggested that another reason for the massive increase in deaths of fish species in the lake may somehow be linked to algae – the lake is home to a host of species, including a type of blue-green algae known as ‘cyanobacteria.’ It has been observed that the excessive nutrients from pollution have caused the algae to bloom in warmer temperatures. When this happens, the algae bloom a bright green colour and release toxins that could harm the fish.

“Right now there is a cyanobacteria bloom, though less thick than last year,” said Slim. “Another possibility is very toxic ammonium.”

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred, as there was a similar (though not as powerful) increase in the number of fish deaths back in 2016, which Slim had linked to the algae blooms as well.


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021