Lebanon approves reopening Naameh landfill for one week
A heap of trash in Lebanon's capital Beirut. (AFP/File)
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The cabinet on Wednesday approved a waste management plan proposed by Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb during an emergency marathon session that was boycotted by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil of the Free Patriotic Movement and State Minister for Parliament Affairs Mohammed Fneish of Hezbollah.
The plan involves the reopening of the controversial Naameh landfill for a period of seven days, said Shehayyeb after the session. The decision to reopen the landfill is aimed at dumping the garbage that accumulated in random sites in Beirut and Mount Lebanon after the July 17 closure of Naameh.
The minister said the plan restores the municipalities' waste management role and includes establishing two sanitary landfills in the Akkar area of Srar and the Bekaa area of al-Masnaa as well as “making use of the waste management plant in Sidon” and reactivating the Bourj Hammoud landfill near Beirut.
Ministries will also coordinate with the Council for Reconstruction and Development to renovate the Ras al-Ain landfill in the southern region of Tyre.
Shehayyeb also announced that a treasury loan of LBP 150 billion has been earmarked for development in the Bekaa region.
The decision to hold the extraordinary cabinet session was taken by Prime Minister Tammam Salam ahead of a national dialogue meeting that was held earlier in the day and coincided with street protests demanding an immediate and eco-friendly solution to Lebanon's unprecedented garbage crisis.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab of the FPM said his colleague Bassil boycotted the cabinet session to send “a message of protest over the issue of the cabinet's work mechanism.”
Despite the boycott of Bassil and Fneish, Hezbollah's Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan and the two ministers of the allied Tashnag Party and Marada Movement attended the session.
The garbage crisis erupted after the July 17 closure of the main landfill serving Beirut and its surroundings.
When the Naameh landfill closed, the government failed to identify sites for new landfills or alternative arrangements. Trash began piling up on the streets until local municipalities found temporary solutions -- dumping in empty lots, river beds and even forests.
The unprecedented crisis sparked angry street protests that eventually evolved into a broad-based mobilization against government impotence and corruption.
Activists said their pressure forced the government to annul the results of a waste management tender that would have allocated the garbage file to six companies suspected of having ties to influential politicians.
But the parties of the coalition government cited high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable.
As the crisis grew, Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq withdrew from a ministerial panel tasked with addressing the problem and Salam tasked Shehayyeb with presiding over another committee.
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