Almost four months have passed since the start of the waste crisis in Lebanon, and two months since the government approved waste management plan, and Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s trash still has no acceptable destination. Trash has accumulated in different parts of the capital and during heavy rainfall two weeks ago, trash floated down the streets in some areas of Beirut. Over the weekend, residents of Eastern Beirut have been complaining of a fly infestation in their area.
The government plan consists of reopening the Naameh landfill (for seven days to transfer all the waste that has accumulated in Beirut since the crisis), and establishing two new landfills to replace the Naameh landfill. The government has only been able to secure one controversial landfill site in Akkar but has failed in selecting a second one; the original plan called for the creation of a sanitary landfill in Masnaa in the Bekaa region, but that was cancelled after a study confirmed the presence of precious groundwater in the area. The government have been finding it very difficult to implement their plan and
The fundamental issue is location of the landfill. The Naameh landfill was operational for 18 years because no alternative was secured, and this is still the case now. Even the prospects of opening Naameh landfill temporarily and opening a landfill in Akkar are leading to street protests in both Akkar and Naameh. The landfill in the Bekaa never materialized, and alternative locations for Beirut’s trash in South Lebanon and the coastal region of Costa Brava in the outskirts of South Beirut were rejected. This lack of progress has put the government plan in jeopardy, and talk of exporting trash, an idea proposed a few months ago, is now back on the agenda.
It is no surprise the waste proposal is facing major obstacles. The results of an opinion survey indicate how much the opinions diverge over this issue. The survey was conducted on a sample of 500 people throughout the country. The following are the results of the survey that are related to the new proposed plan:
- 34% of the respondents accept it
- 41% of the respondents reject it
- 50% of the respondents from the North reject it
- 43% of the respondents from the Bekaa reject it
- 57% of the respondents from Beirut accept it
The results show a difference of opinion between Beirut and the sites where the new landfills are located. Residents of Beirut are more inclined to accept the plan because the trash crisis is affecting them the most. A significant number of the respondents from the North and the Bekaa do not approve of the idea of hosting Beirut’s trash.
What this survey indicates is that a sizeable portion of the population is not convinced by Chehayeb’s plan. The Naameh landfill experience is one of the main reasons other towns do not want to have a landfill near them. For 18 years, 12 years longer than what was intended, the town of Naameh hosted Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s accumulated waste. There have been efforts over this period to implement a new solid waste management plan, but security and political factors have impeded any progress on that front. This climate means nothing can really guarantee the same won’t happen to a newly established landfill. Another issue which may have worked against the proposed plan is the manner of which this plan was developed, which was rushed in the middle of the trash crisis. If the plan had been developed more thoughtfully when the government promised to shut down the Naameh landfill, the reception may have been different. This leaves the residents of Beirut and Mount Lebanon with a new “emergency situation” that may last for years to come.