Old City privatizing sanitation services

Decision follows years of complaints from residents over dirty streets and litter piled near holy sites.

old city 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerezolimski)
old city 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerezolimski)
After years of complaints over dirty streets and litter piled near holy sites, the Jerusalem Municipality has decided to privatize sanitation services for the Old City, officials announced Wednesday. The decision, which was two years in the planning, was dubbed "revolutionary" by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski at a city hall press conference that sought to explain why municipal employees could not clean the Old City the way a private company can. "The Old City has physical and social problems that do not exist anywhere else," Lupolianski said. "We did not want to go with more of the same," he continued, breaking into English. The Old City sanitation plan is expected to get underway next month, after a public tender is issued in the coming days, officials said. The move, which is expected to dramatically reduce litter in the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old City, has the backing of the Prime Minister's Office, and perhaps most critically, comes with NIS 50 million per year in state funding. Ten million visitors come to the Old City each year, the municipality said, and its 1 square kilometer is home to 30,000 residents. The Old City produces a whopping 30 tons of garbage each day, and the trash piling up outside holy sites has long left locals and tourists complaining. Two weeks ago the weekly Yerushalayim newspaper ran a page of pictures of the dirt and litter in the Old City on its front cover with a headline that screamed: "Shame." The municipality's outgoing director-general, Eitan Meir, cited more appropriate technology, increased manpower and a significant increase in budget as the reasons why a private company would do better than the municipal sanitation service. The 48 workers currently charged with the Old City will be assigned to other parts of the city, officials said. Lupolianski said the privatization plan would be limited to the Old City due to its "special needs." Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat on Wednesday welcomed the move, but called on the mayor to solve the sanitation problems in the rest of the city as well. "I congratulate the mayor for recognizing that there is a problem with city sanitation, after four years of claiming that the city was not dirty," Barkat said. Over the past decade, city residents have consistently cited sanitation problems in their complaints with municipal services.