Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb announced on Wednesday that the Naameh landfill will be “permanently shut at midnight.”

He said during a press conference that the dump will then be transformed into a green space.

The closure will put an end to months of disputes over the dump that was reopened to resolve a waste management crisis that erupted in Lebanon in July 2015.

The crisis erupted when the dump was originally closed, but it was temporarily reopened for two months as part of a plan to tackle garbage disposal in the country.

Shehayyeb hoped that the closure of the dump, located south of Beirut, will pave the way to a successful transition period in the country that will lead to “permanent solutions to garbage disposal.”

With the closure, the dump would have received some 900,000 tons of trash that had accumulated throughout Lebanon during the eight-month trash crisis.

Naameh received the waste of Beirut and the Mount Lebanon region.

Preparations are underway to set up landfills at Bourj Hammoud and the Costa Brava site in Khalde to resolve the long-running waste management crisis.

There are fears that the plan may not be complete in time and that garbage might accumulate on the streets once again.

In March, the cabinet decided to establish the Costa Brava and Bourj Hammoud landfills and to reactivate the Naameh landfill for two months as part of a four-year plan to resolve the country’s waste problem.

Shehayyeb told al-Akhbar daily Wednesday that bids for tenders to establish the Costa Brava and Bourj Hammoud landfills will be announced soon.

The delay in finalizing the deals and the completion of the landfills trigger concern in light of the repercussions of the accumulating garbage in the locations allocated close to the two landfills, al-Akhbar said.

The waste crisis, which sparked unprecedented protests against the entire political class, saw streets, forests and riverbanks overflow with waste and the air filled with the smell of rotting and burning garbage.

Naameh dump shut but trash saga endures 19/5/2016
The long and dramatic story of the Naameh landfill has come to an end, officials announced Wednesday. However, the trash crisis continues, as the two landfills being counted on to replace the dump south of Beirut are not yet operational. A Cabinet decree was issued in March to resolve Lebanon’s trash crisis, but did not specify what would happen to the garbage produced in the Aley and Chouf districts.

Nevertheless, after years of repulsive odors and hazardous air, residents of Naameh can breathe a sigh of relief at the news that the notorious landfill was due to shut down at midnight Wednesday.

The Naameh landfill was shut on July 17, 2015, after operating for 17 years. Opened in 1998, the landfill was intended to be a temporary repository for waste, but successive governments kept postponing its closure. Sukleen, the waste contractor for Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon, oversaw the process of garbage collection and treatment.

Media showed trucks in the area Wednesday night and reported that there was still activity at the dump.

The closure of the Naameh landfill last summer sparked the worst trash crisis in Lebanese history, as garbage piled up in the streets of the capital and Mount Lebanon for eight months. The government’s failure to reach a solution prompted civil society groups to hold protests, which at times took a violent turn.

In March, the government reached a solution that called for the reopening of the Naameh landfill for two months to take in the decomposing waste that had piled up since its closure.

Newly produced trash was taken to parking lots in Costa Brava and Burj Hammoud, where the new landfills are to be located.

The parking lots will continue to accept bailed trash until the landfills in Costa Brava and Burj Hammoud are ready.

The decision to award the contract for the Costa Brava site has yet to be officially announced, although the company to construct it has reportedly been chosen.

Media reported Wednesday that the Council for Development and Reconstruction had awarded the contract to Jihad al-Arab’s AlJihad Group for Commerce and Contracting.

The CDR, the government body that supervises the awarding of contracts, could not be reached by The Daily Star for confirmation.

Sukleen and its sister company Sukomi released a statement confirming that they had completed their duties. Their work at the Naameh landfill will be limited following its closure. (The Daily Star)