Lebanon’s residents partly to blame for trash crisis: minister

August 11th, 2015

Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan placed partial blame on Lebanese citizens Tuesday for the country’s ongoing trash crisis, saying that when the state fails to find solutions for crises, the people must play a role in filling the void.

“Citizens have no right to throw their waste in rivers and valleys. … They are a part of the problem,” the minister made clear during a talk at the Industrial Research Institute.

“The [waste] problem began in the 1990s when the government failed to carry out proper bidding to bring in companies over political differences and a lack of consensus on the matter,” he said, indirectly criticizing those who called for Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk to step down over the crisis.

Thousands of protesters had marched in Downtown Beirut over the weekend to demand Machnouk’s resignation over the crisis.

Machnouk announced last week that three companies had been chosen to treat Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s waste after bidding had ended, signaling a near end to the crisis.

But the protesters were not satisfied with the minister’s announcement, arguing that sustainable solutions should be found to protect the environment and public health, rather than burying the waste in new landfills or shipping it outside the country.

“They wanted Minister Machnouk to resign despite the fact that the bidding process had been completed in Cabinet, and we hope for implementation soon,” Hajj Hasan said.

“The political class, municipality unions, municipalities, citizens and the media are all a part of this problem, and are responsible of keeping it at the edge.”

Lebanon environment minister rejects calls to step down

August 11th, 2015

BEIRUT: Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk said Tuesday that if he finds a compelling reason to resign, then he will.

But until then, he said he is not going anywhere, rejecting calls for him to step down because of his inability to find a sustainable solution to Lebanon’s garbage crisis.

“I am working within my responsibilities and when I find a reasonable motive that compels my resignation, then I will not hesitate,” Voice of Lebanon Radio (100.5) quoted the minister as saying on its Twitter account.

Thousands of protesters rallied in Downtown Beirut over the weekend to demand Machnouk’s resignation.

The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests that began when Beirut was flooded with garbage last month when trash collection was halted due to the closure of the Naameh landfill.

“With the closure of the Naameh landfill we have to find alternatives… The state recently said that every province should have a landfill,” the radio station quoted Machnouk as saying.

The landfill was finally shut July 17, after its closure had been postponed several times, but no replacement site had been selected.

The landfill was opened as a temporary solution to a 1997 crisis. But successive governments kept delaying its closure, infuriating locals who were wary of the health and environmental risks it posed.

Though garbage collection ultimately resumed, it was still not clear where the 3,000 tons of daily waste produced by Beirut and Mount Lebanon is being deposited.

Activists from the #YouReek campaign, who organized Saturday’s protest, made speeches attacking the government for “collecting garbage just for people not to see it,” and then dumping it “in valleys, under bridges and in bus stations.”

The speeches also denounced the “childish solutions” proposed by the government to end the crisis, including exporting the garbage and creating more landfills.

Instead the campaign called for sorting trash, selling recyclable garbage, and treating organic waste in existing facilities.

Machnouk also revealed Tuesday that the state will announce in the upcoming days the consortium that won the bids to manage Beirut’s waste.

Machnouk said Friday that three private consortiums have offered eligible bids to manage Beirut’s waste, raising the possibility that waste management in Beirut and Mount Lebanon could return to normal in the next six months.

However, the consortiums have not stated publicly where they would dump the trash.