Activists claiming they sneaked into Sidon’s new waste treatment facility Thursday accused operators of polluting the environment and denounced steps to send Beirut trash to the facility. The facility is slated to receive 250 tons of trash from the capital region each day as part of a Cabinet plan to restart the waste sector, three months into a crippling crisis that has allowed garbage to accumulate across Mount Lebanon.
The plan itself, though, remains on ice, as Cabinet officials struggle to find an area in the Bekaa Valley to take a large portion of the capital region’s garbage.
Anticipation had mounted for a breakthrough Thursday after Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, the plan’s chief architect, announced earlier in the week that Hezbollah had suggested a number of locations in the north Bekaa Valley for consideration. The party enjoys wide support in the region.
But Chehayeb said Thursday that the search for a landfill was still ongoing amid rumors that mayors were refusing to go along.
“There will be a Cabinet meeting once there is a location for a landfill in the Bekaa Valley,” Chehayeb said after meeting with premier Tammam Salam and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk at the Grand Serail. He declined to specify a timetable.
Chehayeb’s plan, which the Cabinet approved five weeks ago, proposes to divide Beirut and Mount Lebanon trash over the next 18 months between landfills in the Bekaa, Akkar, and Burj Hammoud, with a small fraction sent to Sidon.
Construction workers are busy preparing a landfill in the Akkar village of Srar, despite objections from residents. “We are working to overcome the obstacles at the Srar dump. The work is positive, the meetings are open and the communications are ongoing,” Chehayeb said of efforts to engage the community.
In Sidon, the civic campaigns “We Want Accountability” and “Against Corruption” held a news conference to display photos they said they took inside the waste facility. They said the photos showed operators burying trash along the shore without properly treating it, polluting the sea basin. “What we are demanding is a committee of environmental specialists and citizen observers to oversee the operations. And that’s before we talk about bringing more trash in from outside,” a representative told The Daily Star.