Nazih Osseiran| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: As the future of the trash export scheme hangs in the balance, another chapter in the seven-month saga may be set to begin as waste – and evidence of the government’s incompetence – continues to mount.
Below is a timeline showcasing the twists and turns of the state that has achieved little, after fraud and corruption came to light, potentially ending the export scheme.
July 17, 2015The Environment Ministry closes the maligned Naameh landfill, the primary disposal ground for Beirut and Mount Lebanon municipal waste. Though originally intended to hold 2 million tons of waste, it has taken over 15 million tons since it opened in 1998. Local protest movements vow to prevent the site from reopening. The closure leaves the capital region with no fixed locations to put its waste.
July 19, 2015Waste-management contractor Sukleen stops collecting trash in Beirut and Mount Lebanon without a place to dispose of it. Mountains of trash appear on the streets, sparking nationwide controversy.
July 25, 2015The You Stink protest movement emerges as a grassroots reaction to government incompetence. It advocates sustainable solutions for the waste crisis and stages a protest in Riad al-Solh Square attracting around 1,000 people. The government announces that temporary landfills have been identified and garbage collection resumes.
July 28, 2015Hundreds rally in Riad al-Solh Square in a protest intended to coincide with a Cabinet session that ends up being postponed. A small group splits off and marches to Hamra to throw garbage at the car of Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas.
July 30, 2015Dozens of protesters march from the Social Affairs Ministry to the Justice Palace to demand the release of two activists, Tarek Mallah and Firas Bou Zeineddine, who were detained the previous day for the attack on the minister’s car. The pair were charged with contempt and defamation. Two other detained activists, Ihab Yazbek and Bilal Allaw, were released.
Aug. 8, 2015You Stink holds a major protest in Martyrs’ Square. Several thousand people attend.
Aug. 19, 2015A small group of protesters gather in Riad al-Solh Square to coincide with a meeting of ministers discussing the waste-management tender. Scuffles break out with police. You Stink calls for a demonstration on Aug. 22.
Aug. 22, 2015Several thousand people gather in Riad al-Solh Square and march to Nijmeh Square. Demands included the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk, transparent bidding for a sustainable solution and accountability for those behind the trash crisis. Violence erupts, leaving 75 protesters and 35 police wounded. Police fire machine guns in the air in an attempt to disperse demonstrators.
Aug. 23, 2015Protesters rally in Riad al-Solh Square; You Stink demands the resignation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam.Aug. 29, 2015Tens of thousands of demonstrators rally in Downtown Beirut decrying government corruption and incompetence.
Aug. 3, 2015Salam appoints Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb to head a committee of experts tasked with resolving the trash crisis.
Sept. 1, 2015Activists storm the Environment Ministry and trap Machnouk in his office, demanding his resignation. Activists are violently removed, resulting in a massive demonstration.
Sept. 9, 2015Cabinet approves Chehayeb’s plan to solve the garbage crisis by creating new landfills and decentralizing the waste management sector. The notorious Naameh landfill would be reopened and further landfills would be established in Akkar and the Bekaa Valley. Thousands from across Lebanon brave sandstorms to rally in Downtown Beirut and call for state services from an incompetent government. Chehayeb says the plan will not move until all proposed landfill sites signal their approvals.
Nov. 3, 2015Chehayeb’s plan collapses after MP Talal Arslan refuses to establish a landfill in the Costa Brava coastal area, despite a concerted campaign by Chehayeb and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to win local officials over. Akkar and Naameh officials agreed to cooperate with the state, but local residents object. All other districts close their doors to the landfill proposals.
Nov. 9, 2015Swarms of flies breed in Karantina neighborhoods due to their proximity to what has become a major landfill, sparking fear among citizens over the spread of disease.
Dec. 21, 2015Government ministers approve a decree to export the bulk of Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s accumulated trash in a scheme which will cost tax payers $200 million at a price of $212 per ton. Cabinet selects Howa BV and Chinook Urban Mining International to export the waste.
Jan. 10, 2016Sierra Leone denies rumors that it agreed to receive Lebanon’s waste.
Jan. 13, 2016Dutch firm Howa BV fails to make $2.5 million deposit for work, representing a setback to the scheme. British company Chinook Urban Mining International’s preparations continue.
Jan. 29, 2016Head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction Nabil Jisr says Chinook Urban Mining International obtained approval to export waste to Russia.
Feb. 7, 2016Chehayeb announces export will begin by the end of February and says contracts for export will be signed shortly, pending receipt of official permits from Russia.
Feb. 16, 2016Russian authorities announce that permits sent to Lebanese authorities are forged and that Russia has yet to agree to accept waste. Activists claim that Chinook Urban Mining International is a fictitious entity.
Feb. 17, 2016Chinook’s representative retracts appointment after forged export-permit documents surface. Sukleeen announces collecting waste will stop on Feb. 24 as Karantina dump reaches capacity.
Feb. 18, 2016Cabinet announces 24-hour deadline for export contracts; otherwise the scheme will be trashed and Lebanon will resort back to domestic landfills.
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