In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the UNDP, the Municipality of Sidon has implemented a project to replace the infamous “garbage mountain” that has been a nuisance to the city’s residents for decades. The municipality plans to replace the mountain with a 35,000 square meter park. Today the there is no sign of the waste as the municipality boasts massive environmental benefits as a result.
Saida’s dumpsite had been used for 30 years and attracted all types of waste: industrial, medical, slaughterhouse, organic, tanneries, tires and hazardous waste. Since its operation in 1982, the site has been collecting about 300 tons of waste per day. In order to rehabilitate it, the first step was degasification of the landfill to avoid any explosions from trapped gases. The waste was then sorted in a sorting facility such that organic waste is transported to the sanitary landfill cells while non-polluting inert material is aggregated on the site for use as fill material. The sanitary landfill consists of three cells, liquid (leachate) collection system, and a gas collection network. The organic material is expected to take around 7 to 10 years to fully biodegrade, after which the landfill will be covered with agricultural soil and transformed into a public park.
The removal of the mountain has been an impressive feat as it was done in a record time. During the initial stages of the project residents have accused the contractors of mismanaging the waste. Residents complained that the waste was not being treated and the foul odor has remained. The speed with which the project was implemented raised questions about how efficient the sorting of waste was being undertaking as only one sorting facility was being used to process thousands of tons of waste.
There have also been accusations that the waste was being dumped into the sea. Over the past two months the Lebanese Professional Divers’ Syndicate has been performing dives off the coast Sidon searching for underwater waste. The divers found an alarming level of waste 4 km off the coast of Sidon: 16 cubic meters of plastic waste and 6 cubic meters of medical waste. Medical waste included tubes, x-rays, blood bags, dialysis, drops, urine bags, gloves, masks and sanitary napkins. It is unclear however if the waste had been dumped recently or has been accumulating over time.
The UNDP and the implementing partners including the Municipality of Sidon have denied these claims and stressed that activities were undertaken in accordance with international standards. However, the Municipality’s history in dealing with environmental problems in a sustainable manner is not reassuring. In the 1990s, to combat pollution of three rivers from the city’s sewerage system, the Municipality of Sidon built large pipes to carry the three streams and the wastewater and dump them into the sea. While this was being publicized by authorities as an “environmental solution,” the reality is that this water pollutes the coast and emits foul odors. Instead of solving the problem, it was relocated while transforming the natural landscape of the city.