Beirut's mounting trash reflects crisis of government

Mounting piles of garbage festering in the summer heat are triggering health warnings and protests by residents furious their government failed to avoid the crisis.

By REUTERS
July 23, 2015 14:19
2 minute read.
Beirut

Trash pile in Beirut, Lebanon. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The stench of uncollected refuse in the streets of Beirut is a stark reminder of the crisis of government afflicting Lebanon, where politicians divided by local and regional conflicts have been unable to agree on where to dump the capital's rubbish.

Mounting piles of garbage festering in the summer heat are triggering health warnings and protests by residents furious their government failed to avoid a crisis ignited by the long-scheduled closure of a major landfill site last week.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


For lack of state planning, the tip at Naameh south of Beirut had already been kept open well beyond its planned closure date. The date set for its final closure - July 17 - was known, but the authorities had no ready alternative when the day came.

"We got to this point - this crisis - because of the political struggle in Lebanon," said Mohamad Al Machnouk, the minister of environment. He blamed procrastination among politicians for the refuse now piling up in the streets.

A plan to dump rubbish from Beirut - where more than half the population live - at locations around Lebanon is meeting resistance from the regions. The front page of the French language newspaper L'Orient Le Jour on Thursday declared Lebanon the "Trash can Republic".

The crisis echoes wider problems facing Lebanon.

The weak state has long been criticized for failing to develop the country and its infrastructure: Beirut still suffers daily power cuts some 25 years since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.



But government has been particularly poor since the eruption of the war in neighboring Syria. That conflict has exacerbated Lebanon's political divisions, often along sectarian lines that reflect the Syrian conflict.

The presidency has been vacant for more than a year, and parliament elected in 2009 has extended its own term and postponed elections until 2017 on the grounds of instability.

A government of national unity has maintained a semblance of central authority and helped to contain sectarian tensions.

But it is limping along at best.

PASSING TIME

Many observers believe only a deal brokered by regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, which both wield influence over rival Lebanese factions, can set government back on course.

"This government views its role as passing time rather than governing: representing Lebanese legitimacy to get by with a minimal degree of stability, until the regional settlement comes," said Nicola Nassif, a columnist in al-Akhbar newspaper.

In the meantime, the costs for Lebanon are high. The political stalemate has obstructed plans to exploit potential offshore gas reserves, for example.

"They cancelled our elections, they extended parliament, they stole our votes, and now they want us to live in rubbish," said Marwan Maalouf, a 31-year-old lawyer, during a protest outside the government headquarters in Beirut on Tuesday.

The contract of the company that until this week was collecting the refuse expired with the closure of Naameh.

"Unfortunately, the streets are filled up with garbage but we can't find an alternative now. The plan should come from the state, and we will then act upon it," said Pascale Nassar, communications manager for the company, Sukleen.

 

Related Content

HOUTHI SHI’ITE rebels in Yemen
August 21, 2018
Report: IRGC officer confirms helping Houthis fire rockets at Saudis

By YONAH JEREMY BOB