The Cabinet Saturday approved a plan to establish two landfills near Beirut and temporarily re-open a third one whose closure eight months ago sparked the worst trash crisis in Lebanon’s history.
After nearly eight hours of discussions, the Cabinet agreed to set up temporary landfills in Burj Hammoud, east of Beirut, and in the coastal area of Costa Brava, south of Beirut. They also agreed to re-open the infamous Naameh landfill for two months.
“The Cabinet has agreed to establish two temporary landfills and treatment centers in Burj Hammoud and Nahr Ghadir (Costa Brava). It will open the Naameh landfill for two months to receive the waste from makeshift dumps,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said as he read out a statement following the meeting.
Joreige said the plan will last four years, during which the government will create a permanent solution to the country’s waste issue.
“The trash plan is over a four-year period, during which there will be a discussion on a permanent solution,” Joreige said.
He said that the government will allocate $50 million over four years in development projects for towns located near landfills.
The government will separately allocate $8 million annually to each municipality which will open a landfill.
“Six dollars will be paid for every ton of trash accumulated which will be brought to the Naameh landfill,” he added.
“The finance and interior ministers will be tasked to make a law on the incentives which will be given to the municipalities which will have landfills in their area.”
He said that landfills for the Chouf and Aley districts in the Mount Lebanon area will be determined later, after the government consults with local municipalities.
Joreige added that a committee will be set up by the Interior Ministry and the municipalities to monitor the progress and implementation of the plan.
The government also agreed that Sukleen, the waste contractor for Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and its partner company Sukomi, will be responsible for collecting garbage until other companies are awarded contracts.
Ministers belonging to the Kataeb Party had objected to the government’s trash plan, calling on it to be approved by the people first.
“We abstained from the Cabinet decision but we will not delay the implementation of the plan,” said Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, who belongs to the Kataeb Party.
The Armenian Tashnag party also opposed the plan at the meeting. The Burj Hammoud municipality, where a landfill is set to be established, is home to a large Armenian population.
“We have our reservations about the trash plan, and we want more explanations concerning what is going to happen in Burj Hammoud, especially given that what was issued by the government is different than what they told us before,” Tashnag MP Hagop Pakradounian told Al-Jadeed TV.
The government’s agreement comes as thousands of protesters gathered in Riad al-Solh Square in central Beirut demanding an end to the trash crisis.
Environmental activist Paul Abi Rached swiftly denounced the plan, saying it completely contradicts a proposal he put forward after intensive consultations with multiple experts.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed from the protest site, Abi Rached said he met with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb for two days earlier this week to discuss the 15-point plan to resolve the crisis without having to establish landfills.
"He agreed with us on 13 points," Abi Rached said, noting that there was disagreement over details of recycling and what to do with compost.
"They (the government) want incinerators. Incinerators give them business for 20 years," he said, adding that officials were no longer taking his calls.
"What the Lebanese need to understand is we can solve this crisis without landfills," he added.
Saturday’s announcement is likely to spur fresh protests by locals who are concerned of the health and environmental risks of living near a landfill.
Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon have suffered a chronic environmental crisis since the state closed the infamous Naameh landfill on July 17 with no alternative on the table.
The government was forced to revisit plans to set up landfills in the country after an export scheme, in which trash would be shipped to Russia, collapsed last month due to corruption allegations.
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