BEIRUT: Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk Monday ruled out of the possibility of managing Lebanon’s garbage sector without using landfills, and declared that the Naameh dump will not be closed on time.

“We cannot shut down the Naameh landfill on 17th of this month because no alternative is available yet,” Machnouk said at a news conference from his ministry, announcing that the controversial dump’s closure will be postponed by a few months due to technical reasons. “The landfill can survive for a few more months.”

Created as a 6-year project in 1997, the landfill has now reached 17 years of age, exceeding its preset maximum capacity by five-fold, and frustrating the residents of the area with its odors and gas emissions.

Defending the “technical extension” against the heavy criticism by residents of the nearby areas and officials backing them, Machnouk explained that Lebanon’s garbage sector cannot be managed without the existence of any landfills.

“Why don’t decision makers understand that citizens can accept a landfill, but cannot stand a random dump site,” Machnouk said, explaining that “healthy” landfills, where treated waste is buried, do not harm people’s health.

Stressing that landfills are inevitable, the minister said that no matter which techniques are used to treat garbage, the landfill will always be the last phase of the process.

He dismissed the suggestions made by those calling for shutting down the landfill on time, referring to the Progressive Socialist Party leadership without naming it.

“Some people believe that the garbage matter belongs to municipalities,” he said. “But are the municipalities today able to perform all the parts of the [garbage management] process?”

PSP chief Walid Jumblatt had called for the permanent closure of the Naameh landfill, saying every area should handle its own garbage.

Machnouk explained that the process includes the sweeping, collection, sorting, treatment and then the dumping of garbage, which makes it too complicated for municipalities to handle.

“Decentralization could become chaos if we are not ready for it,” he said.

Machnouk said the plan for the reform of the garbage sector was ready, and described the next Cabinet session on Thursday as “decisive” on the future of the sector.

He added that the bid document stating the criteria for the new companies that will participate in the call for tenders will be presented to the Cabinet again, after they were modified upon the demand of the Kataeb Party ministers.
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