BEIRUT: Lebanon is facing an environmental emergency which is being compounded by the presence of over one million Syrian refugees, Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk said Sunday.

“We are living in a state of environmental emergency… because of the Syrian refugees who have exceeded 1.5 million over the past years,” Machnouk said at the Conference for Arab Environment Ministers. “We are really living in an environmental catastrophe… on the levels of solid waste, air and water pollution and sanitation, among others.”

Over 1.1 million Syrians are registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon, but the actual figure is thought to be much higher.

Machnouk said all of Lebanon’s 18 rivers send polluted water into the Mediterranean Sea, while 762 random garbage dumps scatter across Lebanese territory.

Moreover, Machnouk explained, the country has been witnessing a deforestation campaign that had never occurred in Lebanon’s history.

The flow of Syrian refugees, which doubles and tripled the number of residents in certain areas, has created an unprecedented pressure on Lebanon’s infrastructure, he explained.

“I truly want to see us leaving this [conference] with a firm stand concerning the environment and the infrastructure in Lebanon, which is an essential factor of any development and has reached point of high risk,” he added.

Machnouk’s comments also touched on the global warming crisis in the region, and called for a common strategy to be adopted by Arab countries.

“I also think it is necessary to have a greater momentum to push towards an international decision,” he added. “And by that, we can become one group with one stand on the major causes.”

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