The municipality and residents of Sidon celebrated the long-awaited removal of the city’s notorious mountain of garbage Monday, in a high-profile event attended by prominent politicians and international officials alike.

The idea of transforming the dump into a modern landfill and, eventually, a public park has been much anticipated by locals; after more than 40 years, they are thrilled to be rid of the smell of garbage and the spontaneous methane fires.

Now, halfway through the completion of the project, their dream is becoming a reality.

In celebration, the municipality of Sidon organized a packed event. Sidon’s mayor Mohammad Saudi spoke at the ceremony. “We gather today to celebrate the most important achievement that has happened in Sidon,” he said in his speech.

Many challenges were faced and many obstacles were overcome thanks to the cooperation of the city’s two deputies, ministers, security forces and environment officials, and the support of the city’s residents too, Saudi added.

He said the adopted criteria to deal with the waste aimed for environmental safety and the project had been supervised by the United Nations’ Development Program.

Luca Randa, the head of the UNDP in Lebanon, said that he was happy with the project and proud of Sidon’s residents.

The project is now halfway toward realizing all of its goals, he said. A year and a half after its launch, the garbage has completely disappeared, and work on a 33-meter-squared public park has already started.

There are more than 760 dumps all over Lebanon, he added, and it’s time to change the mentality and the culture of accepting garbage.