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 17, 2015

The Daily Star - EU waste plant gives hope to Baalbek, September 17, 2015

Mat Nashed

In the wake of the mounting waste crisis, residents of Baalbek have renewed hope for the future. Hundreds flocked Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a solid waste treatment plant.

Funded by the European Union, the plant is designed to process 70 tons of solid waste per day. But within the next two years, the plant will expand to handle 250 tons thanks to upcoming EU funds. This will allow the treatment of all solid waste produced in the entire Northern Bekaa.

Marcello Mori, the head of the sustainable development section of the EU delegation, said that though the garbage crisis has commanded international attention only recently, the EU has been investing in this sector for the last 10 years.

“Lebanon is characterized by a cruel lack of infrastructure,” he said. “It is in this context where the EU’s intervention in this sector ... has fallen.”

Costing 1,426,000 euros ($1,610,207) the project is part of a wider initiative that will be followed by the construction of a sanitary landfill and a pilot biodigester.

In a region suffering from acute levels of poverty, these developments will help generate electricity out of refuse while producing a new employment sector.

Hamad Hasan, the mayor of Baalbek, said that he’s very optimistic that this project would improve the quality of life of his townspeople. “We can use this waste plant for a very long time,” he told The Daily Star. “It will help create some job opportunities for our people as well.”

The Minister of State for Administrative Development Nabil de Freige, who inaugurated the project, said that “thanks to two new funds from the European Union for 14 and 21 million euros, we will launch the expansion of the treatment plant, in addition to designing and constructing a sanitary landfill near the plant.”

“For the first time in Lebanon, we will have a model for a comprehensive treatment of waste that includes a sorting and composting plant, a sanitary landfill and a biogas unit for electricity production.”

Those who attended the ceremony Wednesday are equally encouraged. A man who did not want to be identified said the waste treatment plant would first and foremost improve the public health of local residents.

“Recycling our waste will provide a better environment for us,” he said. “We don’t want our public places full of trash.”

Aid workers also said that the project would improve access to basic provisions and relieve tensions between Syrian refugees and local host communities.

Fatima Haidar, an aid worker assisting refugees, said that there were approximately 60,000 Syrians living in Baalbeck. While most have settled in tents and shelters, their plight has added to the strain on local communities. Nevertheless, Syrian refugees are living in some of the most precarious conditions.

“The water they [Syrians] are drinking is contaminated, but at least they won’t live in garbage much longer,” Haidar said.

“This is an issue for all of us. This is an ecological issue, a public health issue, and a hygiene issue that we must address,” she added.

The EU support provided for the construction of the Baalbek solid waste treatment plant is part of a broader project on solid waste management targeting the municipality of Baalbek before the union of municipalities of Baalbek and the Baalbek-Hermel governorate.

This project also foresees the construction of a sanitary landfill and a pilot biodigester that can produce electricity out of organic waste.

It is expected to be completed by the end of this year. In total 60 municipalities and 400,000 inhabitants will directly benefit from this EU support.

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