After reading a piece about beach pollution in The Daily Star, I thought Beyonce was trying to tell me something: stay in the pool this summer!

After all, the article says Lebanon’s coastline is used as “a giant toilet bowl” due to severe problems with waste management.

Also quoted in the article is the head of Lebanon’s green party, Nada Zaarour who warned: “This is an emergency. People should not be swimming in Lebanese beaches.”

But one big piece of information missing in the article (which contradicts Zaarour’s blanket statement) is that many Lebanese beaches are indeed still safe for swimming, according to the same survey.

In fact, the blue dots below represent “good” beaches and these coincide with many of the country’s most popular resorts in Batroun, Amsheet, Chekka, Dammour, Jiyye, Tyr and Naquora.

See the blue dots below:

The problem is that the map published by the Star is really low res and hard to read. But if you know the geography and have good eye sight, you can make out the areas I mentioned above.

Now all this is not to say that the article shouldn’t have been published. It says that 7 out of 19 areas have really unsafe levels of sewage content. These are areas like Ramlet El Baida–Beirut’s public beach–and the very urbanized coastline of Antelias-Jounieh-Tabarja, which a lot of people try to avoid.

But it is also true that plenty of people–largely the poor– swim in those densely populated areas. This may not affect a lot of the tourist resorts, casting doubt on the article’s claim that the results will be damaging to the industry.

But in a way, the article may do that damage itself, as evidenced by the questionable blanket statements like that of Zaarour, which are likely to spread widely, as seen by the article’s viral level of Facebook likes.

Again this is a very serious issue. Where are the ministries of environment, public health and tourism? Shouldn’t they have warned the public? And what is the state of sewage treatment plants? Why is the government spending money on new highways while many people are swimming in waste?

Serious questions, which should not be overshadowed by exaggerated claims and “giant toilet bowl” metaphors that may do more harm than good.

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