A dusty gas mask left at the perimeter guard post hints at what lies beyond. Amid mounds of rubbish, broken furniture and loops of razor wire, abandoned chemical silos, factories and office blocks jut from the desolate scrub.

Ibrahim recalls the day almost 40 years ago when this place, Abu Kammash on Libya’s western coastline, offered overseas adventure and a well-paid career. He was one of many Libyans sent in the late 1970s to study in Europe, and then work at this huge petrochemical complex known as GCCI.

The Germans followed strict protocols on toxic waste. In Libyan hands, there were two options: bury it, or dump it in the sea.”

– Ibrahim, former GCCI worker

“How could I possibly say no to such an offer?” he asks. A generation on, Ibrahim says it was the worst decision of his life, which has cost him and the family he raised under its shadow in Zuwara.

Abu Kammash, known locally as Bukamesh, was abandoned in 2010 after years of mismanagement by Gaddafi’s Libya, leaving sea and soil polluted, the ocean’s natural bounty poisoned and, locals say, many who lived nearby ill and even dead.

 

Chapter Two: The Secret War in North Africa

Read Next: Chapter Two: The Secret War in North Africa

Read the whole story from Middle East Eye.

Featured image courtesy of AP