Management of Conflict Wastes

Rubble and other wastes caused by the destruction of infrastructure during conflict contain substances that can damage human health and the environment. Their management is a significant post-conflict burden that states may be poorly equipped to deal with following conflict. This can result in damaging or inadequate disposal practices that threaten human and environmental health.


Case study: Lebanon, 2006
The destruction of the Haret Hreik Security Square in southern Beirut generated a significant amount of solid waste requiring appropriate disposal. Source: UNEP.

The destruction of the Haret Hreik Security Square in southern Beirut generated a significant amount of solid waste requiring appropriate disposal. Source: UNEP.

The 2006 conflict in Lebanon caused significant damage to infrastructure across the country, particularly in the south. The environmentally sound management of the 5.75 million m3 of rubble generated from the widespread use of explosive weapons was a major technical and logistical challenge following the conflict.

Rubble can contain a range of potentially hazardous materials together with explosive remnants of war (ERW) and household wastes. The prolonged inhalation of particulate matter from dusts and rubble can damage the lungs and expose civilians to a range of contaminants. 

Dumping in environmentally sensitive areas was commonplace, particularly where private contractors were employed with minimal oversight. In areas with smaller quantities of waste, rubble was used to infill pot holes on roads or in construction. Some efforts to separate hazardous materials from the wastes were made but the scale of the problem proved overwhelming. Concern over dumping led the UN Development Programme to promote the recycling wastes but implementation was limited to a few areas. 

Key issues
  • Conflict in populated areas can generate vast quantities of waste that pose a risk to human and environmental health.
  • The quantity of material generated can overwhelm national authorities which can lead to disposal practices that are harmful to the environment and human health.
  • Best practice systems for isolating, separating and processing wastes exist but require funding and technical assistance to implement effectively.
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