The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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September 21, 2015

Now Lebanon - Who decides where the garbage goes, September 21, 2015

Myra Abdallah

“Even though Chehayeb’s plan was still to be executed, Majdal Anjar residents will not accept the establishment of a dump in the village here,” said Rami, a Majdal Anjar resident. “If [the cabinet] decides to do so, even if the garbage trucks were accompanied by security forces, we will stop them. The security forces will be attacked before the trucks.”

The Lebanese people have been suffering from garbage piling up on the streets for over two months now, and the state repeatedly failed to find a permanent solution to this crisis. After several weeks of meetings and negotiations, the Lebanese government came up with what has been called the “Akram Chehayeb waste crisis plan.” Agriculture Minister Chehayeb suggested that the Naameh dump be reopened for seven days and then opening dumps in Akkar, Bourj Hammoud, Saida and Majdal Anjar, a plan which has been adopted by the cabinet. Despite the objections of the residents of these cities, Chehayeb’s plan seems to be the only solution suggested by the cabinet.

On Sunday, civil society groups and movements organized a march from Bourj Hammoud to Martyrs’ Square in protest against the plan. Akkar Is Not A Dump activists were also part of this march.

The position of the civil society group is clear: the totally object to a plan that only offers temporary solutions with no environmental guarantees and obliges a few cities to accept the garbage of the rest of the country. The plan also clearly states the locations of the suggested dumps — largely located in Sunni-majority villages. In Majdal Anjar, Chehayeb’s plan suggests the establishment of a dump in the Masnaa area, and residents believe the location was not only rejected by Sunnis because of the threat to the environment, but also by Hezbollah on the pretext of putting the security situation of the area at risk.

Ali Majzoub, member of the municipal committee of Majdal Anjar, says the main objections are about the environment and health risks. “Residents who live here do not care about Hezbollah’s military interests,” Majzoub told NOW. “If the residents here accepted the dump bine locted in Masnaa, the whole area would have been ready to face Hezbollah to make it happen.”

Future MPs position

Residents NOW spoke to in Majdal Anjar said that Future MPs do not care about them and that they only care about Beirut. Mazjoub said the sense that Future Movement MPs in particular are indifferent to their community is nothing new. “As Sunnis, we always say that our leaders are neglecting us and only remember us during the elections to get more votes.”

Mazjoub also said that cabinet’s decision to establish a dump in Masnaa was an impulsive one, and that they didn’t communicate with the municipality or studying the location, which happens to be very close to a groundwater source. As a consequence, he says residence objected for two basic reasons. “The first is that, when you mention garbage, people directly think about pollution, cancer and the environment. They do not have enough culture to know how garbage is treated and how we can benefit from it financially and by producing electricity. And the second reason is that even if the dump was environmentally-friendly in theory, people do not trust the government to execute the plan. They do not trust the way Lebanese authorities will handle this issue.”

Majzoub also said that the Sunni community might be directly targeted. “In Nabatieh, there is a ready waste-sorting plant with employees who are getting paid. The plant is not functional. Why don’t they use it?”

Rami also says Furture MPs only care about Beirut. “This was very clear when Bahia Hariri suggested moving Beirut’s garbage to Saida,” he said. However, an analyst speaking on condition of anonymity told NOW that it’s not so much that Future MPs don’t care, but rather that they prefer not to object directly. “The Future MPs do not want to be on the front line. They accepted the plan publically, but gave the green light for their supporters to object it, and this is what happened in Majdal Anjar and Srar, Akkar.”

It’s also about the money

“The cabinet is sending the garbage to disadvantaged villages that need a lot of money and development plans,” said activist Khaled Hammoud. “I think that they want to do in Majdal Anjar what they did to Akkar: promise them money to take the garbage, and this is totally refused.” Hammoud says that Chehayeb’s plan has no other goal than containing the anger of protesters and that objections to the plan were not just coming in from the Bekaa. “All dumps are refused because they are demanding waste sorting and environmental treatment.”

Another Bekaa resident NOW spoke to says there were deals made in connection with the Majdal Anjar dump plan with people from the Bekaa who are well-connected with Lebanese authorities. “Nicolas Fattouch (MP from Zahle) and Pierre Fattouch aim to benefit financially from the dump,” Rami said. “We call them here the new feudal lords.” While this allegation could not be independently confirmed, many residents told NOW the same thing. Majzoub says the dump was supposed to be established partly on Nicolas and Pierre Fattouch’s newly-bought lands and partly on public lands belonging to the Lebanese state. “Had the idea been suggested by a different person, we would have negotiated it. But since we know the Fattouch family and their goals, we directly refused it,” he told NOW.

Hammoud says that nobody has specific information about people benefitting financially from the dump. “Nobody can give you exact information because the cabinet — more specifically Chehayeb and the [politicians] who are making these decisions are not revealing the exact location of where the dump is supposed to be.”

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