Mounting trash triggers anger, warnings of health crisis – Zawya

* Lebanese government struggles to rule with region in crisis

By Tom Perry

BEIRUT, July 23 (Reuters) – The stench of uncollected refuse in the streets of Beirut is a stark reminder of the crisis of government afflicting Lebanon, where politicians divided by local and regional conflicts have been unable to agree on where to dump the capital’s rubbish.

Mounting piles of garbage festering in the summer heat are triggering health warnings and protests by residents furious their government failed to avoid a crisis ignited by the long-scheduled closure of a major landfill site last week.

For lack of state planning, the tip at Naameh south of Beirut had already been kept open well beyond its planned closure date. The date set for its final closure – July 17 – was known, but the authorities had no ready alternative when the day came.

“We got to this point – this crisis – because of the political struggle in Lebanon,” said Mohamad Al Machnouk, the minister of environment. He blamed procrastination among politicians for the refuse now piling up in the streets.

A plan to dump rubbish from Beirut – where more than half the population live – at locations around Lebanon is meeting resistance from the regions. The front page of the French language newspaper L’Orient Le Jour on Thursday declared Lebanon the “Trash can Republic”.

The crisis echoes wider problems facing Lebanon.

The weak state has long been criticised for failing to develop the country and its infrastructure: Beirut still suffers daily power cuts some 25 years since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

But government has been particularly poor since the eruption of the war in neighbouring Syria. That conflict has exacerbated Lebanon’s political divisions, often along sectarian lines that reflect the Syrian conflict.

The presidency has been vacant for more than a year, and parliament elected in 2009 has extended its own term and postponed elections until 2017 on the grounds of instability.

A government of national unity has maintained a semblance of central authority and helped to contain sectarian tensions.

But it is limping along at best.


Many observers believe only a deal brokered by regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, which both wield influence over rival Lebanese factions, can set government back on course.

“This government views its role as passing time rather than governing: representing Lebanese legitimacy to get by with a minimal degree of stability, until the regional settlement comes,” said Nicola Nassif, a columnist in al-Akhbar newspaper.

In the meantime, the costs for Lebanon are high. The political stalemate has obstructed plans to exploit potential offshore gas reserves, for example.

“They cancelled our elections, they extended parliament, they stole our votes, and now they want us to live in rubbish,” said Marwan Maalouf, a 31-year-old lawyer, during a protest outside the government headquarters in Beirut on Tuesday.

The contract of the company that until this week was collecting the refuse expired with the closure of Naameh.

“Unfortunately, the streets are filled up with garbage but we can’t find an alternative now. The plan should come from the state, and we will then act upon it,” said Pascale Nassar, communications manager for the company, Sukleen.

(Additional reporting by Yara Abi Nader, Issam Abdullah and Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Dominic Evans) ((; Reuters Messaging: Beirut’s mounting trash reflects crisis of government

Trash piles in Beirut raise fears of an environmental crisis – Environment and Development
(AP- Bassem Mroue) – Garbage piled up Tuesday on the streets of cosmopolitan Beirut amid a growing dispute over tiny Lebanon’s largest trash dump, picketed by residents as it should have closed permanently days earlier.

The main company in charge of picking up the trash, Sukleen, had its workers sweeping Beirut’s streets, though not picking up any of the garbage. Typically, the refuse would have gone to the Naameh landfill, just south of Beirut, which has been functioning since 1997.

But Naameh was scheduled to close July 17. Since then, residents of Naameh and nearby villages have blocked roads to prevent trucks from reaching it to unload trash out of fears it could be reopened. That’s left Beirut’s residents dodging the growing piles of litter, now baking in the summer sun.

Sukleen spokeswoman Pascale Nassar said the company kept collecting trash until Sunday night, when their facility in Beirut could not take any more garbage. Nassar said Sukleen is waiting for authorities to offer them guidance on what to do.

Lebanon’s notoriously gridlocked government has yet to take any action on the issue ahead of the next Cabinet meeting on Thursday. Meanwhile, the trash pile grows as workers spray them with white powder to knock back the smell and spread of pests.

Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk said after a meeting of parliament’s environment committee that there is no strategic solution for the crisis, though there are 670 dumps around the country that can be used.

“Trash has to be collected from the streets and this can only happen with everyone’s cooperation,” Machnouk told The Associated Press.
Jul. 23, 2015 Daily Star

Cabinet fails to find solution to trash crisis

BEIRUT: The Cabinet Thursday failed to find a solution to the trash crisis which has left Beirut and Mount Lebanon buried under garbage this week, with Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk vowing to locate new dump sites.
Jul. 23, 2015 Ya Linab
Lebanon cabinet meets amid garbage crisis

The met on Thursday and failed to reach a decision on its working mechanism and the garbage crisis but agreed to continue discussions next week.

The session was held at the Grand Serail amid a “distaste ” expressed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam over the failure to bridge the gap between the bickering sides in the government.

The government did not discuss details on how to dispose off the waste because Salam had clinched a deal with Free Patriotic Movement ministers not to tackle any issue before resolving the dispute on the cabinet’s decision-making mechanism.

He had also hinted that he would resign over his concern that the cabinet crisis would not be resolved.

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said he asked Salam whether he would resign if no agreement was reached between the ministers.

“All options are on the table,” Rifi quoted the PM as saying.

The cabinet will meet on Tuesday to continue its dicussions, said Information Minister Ramzi Jreij.

Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq reiterated that he was seeking to find landfills in several regions to allow Sukleen to transport the uncollected waste in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

“I will seek to locate landfills in every region and every district of Lebanon and this will be our solution,” Mashnouk told reporters following a four-hour Cabinet meeting.

The garbage crisis erupted after the Naameh landfill south of Beirut was closed over the weekend under a decision taken by the government months ago.

Al-Mashnouq thanked some municipal chiefs for cooperating with him and allowing waste to be dumped in locations in their regions.

Mashnouk estimated the amount of trash currently on the streets to be at 22,000 metric tons.

As garbage continued to pile up on the streets, the Beirut Fire Department said it had extinguished more than 140 fires set on dumpsters across Beirut since Monday.

It urged citizens not to burn waste.
#YouReek: Citizens dump garbage woes on Lebanese officials – Daily Star

Hashem Osseiran| The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Should Lebanon ship its waste to Sweden where they transform garbage into energy, or bury it outside the government palace in Beirut?

Lebanese citizens are compensating for the government’s inaction over the country’s waste management crisis by offering solutions of their own.

Following the Cabinet’s failure to reach a solution to the issue during a session Thursday, citizens have decided to take matters into their own hands. A protest called for by netizens at Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square Saturday seeks to transform the Grand Serail into the capital’s new dumping ground.

“On Saturday, we are going to gather the garbage around us in order to return it to its original dumping ground: Cabinet, the landfill of politicians,” read a Facebook invite to the protest. About 1,000 Internet users said they would attend.

The national crisis which has seen trash spilling out of dumpsters in Beirut and Mount Lebanon since Sunday came after Lebanon’s waste management company Sukleen announced that it would halt garbage collection until the government could provide suitable dumping grounds following the closure of the Naameh landfill.

The stench of piling garbage in Beirut’s streets has fueled public anger over the crisis. The Beirut Fire Department announced Thursday that it had put out 140 dumpster fires in the capital alone since Monday. Citizens are burning the piles of garbage to make room for more waste.

But nowhere has this rage been more pronounced than on Lebanon’s social media networks, where users posted pictures of mountainous piles of trash under the Arabic hashtags: “#WasteCrisis” and “#YouReek.”

Apart from the usual display of mockery, users tried to organize initiatives to minimize the amount of garbage piling up on the streets.

Others have used the crisis as an opportunity to spread awareness on the importance of recycling and proper waste treatment. Sweden was repeatedly invoked amid the social media frenzy. The country, which recycles almost half of its waste and uses 52 percent to generate heat, was praised by the Lebanese for burying less than 1 percent of its garbage.

Some also recommended that citizens follow the example of Ukrainians who threw several of their politicians into dumpsters last year.

Citizens also waxed nostalgic, reminiscing about the services of street sweepers.

One meme showed a picture of a garbage collector smiling as he posed in front of a truck. “We miss you,” read the caption.

Rawad Hajj, a Beirut-based graphic designer, posted an illustration showing a garbage man standing beside a dumpster wearing an Asian conical hat. The image was titled: “The anonymous soldier.”

One photo showed a group picture of Lebanese officials behind a computer tab that read: “Move to trash?”

Another photo showed a rework of the Lebanese flag with a pile of garbage replacing the green cedar tree at its center.

Hezbollah says ‘corruption’ behind Cabinet’s failure to find trash solution – Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc Thursday fiercely criticized the Cabinet for failing to find a solution to the country’s waste crisis.

“Political corruption was directly reflected in the trash crisis,” the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc said in its weekly statement, accusing the government and politicians of “carrying out fraudulent acts.”

The statement, read aloud by MP Mohammad Raad after a bloc meeting, added that “the current Cabinet is operating through corrupt mechanisms left behind by previous governments.”

“The citizens have the right to wonder why the Cabinet’s 2010 decision wasn’t implemented, or who thwarted the bidders’ offers for greater Beirut,” the statement continued.

The Cabinet made a decision in 2010 to incinerate the capital’s waste, however, Lebanese environmentalists strongly opposed the method, arguing that composting and recycling trash would be safer and cheaper.

“Not executing the resolutions within the deadline reveals that personal interests are being placed before general interest,” Raad said, emphasizing that “there are people benefiting from the current situation.”

“The government should not completely toss this issue and its consequences on the citizens and the municipalities,” he added.

He also held the government responsible for “finding emergency solutions,” highlighting that “the people will surely cooperate in solving a problem that has been threatening their health and environment.”

Garbage has been left uncollected in Beirut and Mount Lebanon since Sunday, two days after the closure of the Naameh landfill, with residents across the capital setting fire to over 100 dumpsters and piles of trash on the streets.

The Cabinet met Thursday with many hoping that a decision would be made to address the crisis, but ministers failed to find a solution.
Municipalities must bury their own trash: Lebanon environment minister Daily Star

Nizar Hassan| The Daily Star

Municipalities in Mount Lebanon should immediately cooperate with the government by allocating space for landfills to prevent drowning in garbage, Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk warned Tuesday.