Lebanon's trash export plans are a real mess

Published February 18th, 2016 - 02:00 GMT
Lebanon's trash management crisis erupted in July 2015 when the country's largest landfill was closed. (AFP/Patrick Baz)
Lebanon's trash management crisis erupted in July 2015 when the country's largest landfill was closed. (AFP/Patrick Baz)

The cabinet is expected to discuss on Thursday the controversial waste export plan after a scandal rocked the file following claims made by the Russian Environment Ministry that it has not given its seal of approval to the export of Lebanon's garbage.

Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb told As Safir newspaper that Britain’sChinook Urban Mining company, which has received the government's approval to export the waste, has until Friday to provide the Lebanese authorities with a document that carries the signatures of the Russian Foreign and Environment Ministries and the Lebanese Embassy in Moscow.

The document should also include the signature of the Russian Environment Ministry on its commitment to the export of waste based on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, he said.

“If it (Chinook) was not able to provide the required document, then the agreement which has been struck with it would be immediately considered void,” warned the minister.

Lebanon's trash management crisis erupted in July 2015 when the country's largest landfill in Naameh, which received the waste of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, was closed.

The garbage piled up on the streets and in random locations raising health and environmental concerns and sparking unprecedented street protests against the entire political class.

The cabinet later approved a waste export plan after the authorities failed to find alternatives.

Ambiguity emerged earlier this week on the deal struck with Chinook when Nikolai Gudkov, press officer at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, denied that Russia gave the green light to send Lebanon's waste to a Russian province, describing a document received from the British firm by the authorities in Moscow as forged.

Shehayyeb denied the claim that Chinook fabricated the permits it needs to export the waste.

He said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had informed Prime Minister Tammam Salam during discussions on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich last week that Moscow welcomes the cooperation with the Lebanese authorities on the export of trash.

“It seems something unnatural happened in Russia the last minute,” he said.

Shehayyeb also warned that garbage will pile up on the streets again if the export plan fails.

 

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