Words Bassam Alkantar
Seven months ago, the authorities shut the main landfill site (Naameh) for garbage from the capital, without providing an alternative. Since then, rubbish collection has halted and festering trash has piled up in the city streets, causing what researchers and campaigners now say is a public health emergency. Years before the crisis, the Lebanese governments were proposing many “Solid Domestic Waste (SDW) Treatment Plans” but none of these plans adopted the principle of treatment decentralization and giving the municipalities and union of municipalities a role in upholding responsibility of the SDW file for a sustainable period and in accordance with implementation mechanisms designed for this purpose.That’s why the government proposals to have the rubbish exported or treated in Lebanon have fallen flat.
On 13 March 2016, after an emergency cabinet session, government said it would reopen the Naameh landfill as part of a “four-year” plan to resolve the crisis. Naameh reopened for two months to take in the trash that has already piled up. Three other “temporary” landfills equipped to treat the waste would be opened in Beirut’s suburbs. ( Burj Hammoud, east of Beirut, and in the coastal area of Costa Brava, south of Beirut). While landfill for the Chouf and Aley districts in the Mount Lebanon area will be determined later, after the government consults with local municipalities.
The government’s announcement spur fresh protests by locals who are concerned of the health and environmental risks of living near a landfill.
The question that remained without answer: why did the government extended the transitional SDW treatment period 4 years after it was set to 18 months in September 2015 SDW plan ? Activists are saying that this failed Cabinet blackmailed the people by giving them only two options: either the trash is left to accumulate in their villages and cities and cause an outbreak of diseases, or they accept opening landfills in their areas. But actually the proposed “solution “ in the long term is more dangerous than controlled dump sites and landfills. It is the incinerators !
Despite the lateness of this decision for several years, and abandoning it in the Cabinet’s decision in September 2015, the Cabinet returned to adopting the formation of incinerators, and decided to rehabilitate waste-to-energy plants in the large cities on 21 December 2015.
The incinerators project includes designing, building, and operating a plant to turn waste into energy at a capacity of 2000 tons/day, and the time predicted for the project to be built is 36 months. However, the period during which the project will be put into action ranges from 10 to 20 years. The CDR appointed 11 July 2016 for the launching of the bid, to be followed by 4 months for presenting the bidding offers, which will end on 11 November 2016. Signing the contract will take 10 days (11 May 2017), in addition to 36 months to finalize the works and begin operating (12 May 2020). Only by reading the timetable to operate the incinerators can we conclude why the government extended the transitional SDW treatment period 4 years.
It is true that people wants a prompt solution that will secure the moving of the accumulated waste from the streets, but the people also wants integrated SDW treatment that will save the economy and the environment. Latest technology offers the solution but the government is shaping the bids of waste to energy to fit the incinerators companies and that the issue that should be challenged and stopped in the upcoming months.
The people also wants integrated SDW treatment that will save the economy and the environment.