Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb said Wednesday that his waste management plan is on the right track of implementation to resolve the country’s two-month garbage crisis.

“Preparations for the implementation of the plan are ongoing and the work is serious,” Shehayyeb told al-Joumhouria newspaper. “It has become closer to reality.”

“We found a landfill on the eastern mountain range and we are working with the army and officials in the area” to strike a deal on its functioning, he said.

Preparations have also been made for the operation of the Srar landfill in the northern district of Akkar, he added.

Later on Tuesday, Shehayyeb announced that “there is no alternative to resolve the garbage crisis other than the participatory solution that we have reached.”

“We’re seeking to overcome all obstacles,” he said, following a meeting with Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq.

He noted that the attempt to reopen the controversial Naameh landfill is aimed at dumping “around 50,000 tons of waste of which 10,000 are burnt.”

He was referring to trash that has been accumulating on the sides of the streets and in random sites in Beirut and Mount Lebanon since the July 17 closure of the landfill.

“We know that there are voices that have objected against the reopening of the Naameh landfill for 7 days but the municipalities’ stance was clear,” he added, in response to a reporter’s question.

“The waste management plan is a victory for the popular protest movement and had it not been for them, the file would not have reached any solutions,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for the Closure of the Naameh Landfill held a new sit-in outside the site and reiterated its rejection of any reopening of the landfill, citing health and environmental risks.

The waste crisis erupted in July when Lebanon’s largest landfill in Naameh was closed.

Trash began piling up on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, forcing the dumping of waste in makeshift sites and along the banks of rivers.

After the pressure exerted by civil society activists through a series of anti-government protests, Shehayyeb came up with a plan last month to dump the trash of Beirut and Mount Lebanon in several landfills across Lebanon.

He has since been holding consultations with activists and locals to approve the plan.

Shehayyeb Upbeat as Ain Drafil Residents Accept 7-Day Reopening of Naameh Landfill
by Naharnet Newsdesk

Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb was optimistic Monday about the implementation of an emergency waste management plan that he devised with a group of experts, as residents of the town of Ain Drafil said they will accept a 7-day temporary reopening of the controversial Naameh landfill.

“The minister stressed the righteousness of the demands of the town of Ain Drafil and he pledged to fulfill them,” said a delegation from the town after meeting Shehayyeb.

The demands include “separating the town’s share of municipal funds from that of the town of Abay” and “transferring a due payment to the Central Fund for the Displaced.”

“He promised that the plan will be comprehensive and that the reopening of the Naameh-Ain Drafil landfill will be limited to seven days only,” the delegation said.

“Accordingly, the residents of Ain Drafil underlined that they support Minister Akram Shehayyeb and stand by him in the implementation of his plan for the waste management crisis,” it added.

Meanwhile, an upbeat Shehayyeb told OTV that “the chances of success for the implementation of the waste management plan have become bigger than the chances of failure.”

On Friday, the municipal union of towns in the vicinity of the Naameh landfill announced its approval of Shehayyeb’s proposal to reopen the facility for seven days to dump the trash that has been accumulating in Beirut and Mount Lebanon since the dumpsite’s July 17 closure. The union, however, insisted that other landfills cited in the minister’s plan must be also activated at the same time.

But the so-called Campaign for the Closure of the Naameh Landfill, which comprises activists and residents, reiterated its rejection of any temporary reopening of the site.

“We reject the entry of 150,000 tons of rotten garbage into the landfill under the excuse that there is no alternative solution,” it said in a statement recited at a sit-in outside the facility’s entrance.

“This same excuse was the reason behind 17 years of extension,” the campaign noted.

It also condemned Shehayyeb’s committee for “failing to discuss the alternative solution that was proposed by the Lebanon Eco Movement, which is based on distributing the waste to the districts’ sorting centers, a solution that is less costly than that envisioned by the plan.”

Shehayyeb has stressed that only partnership between authorities and the civil society would guarantee the success of the committee tasked with resolving the country’s two-month long waste crisis.

A plan devised by Shehayyeb and a team of experts calls for reopening the Naameh landfill, which was closed in mid-July, for seven days to dump the garbage that accumulated in random sites in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

It also envisions converting two existing dumps, in the northern Akkar area of Srar and the eastern border area of al-Masnaa, into sanitary landfills capable of receiving trash for more than a year.

After he announced his plan last week, the civil society and local residents of Akkar, Naameh, Majdal Anjar, and Bourj Hammoud protested against the step.

Environmentalists fear the crisis could degenerate to the point where garbage as well as sewage will simply overflow into the sea from riverbeds as winter rains return.

The health ministry has warned that garbage scattered by seasonal winds could also block Lebanon’s drainage system.

The trash crisis has sparked angry protests that initially focused on waste management but grew to encompass frustrations with water and electricity shortages and Lebanon’s chronically divided political class.

Campaigns like “You Stink” brought thousands of people into the streets in unprecedented non-partisan and non-sectarian demonstrations against the entire political class.