A new rally was held Sunday in the northern district of Akkar to denounce government plans to turn an existing garbage dump in the Srar area into a so-called “sanitary landfill” capable of receiving trash from areas across Lebanon as part of an emergency waste management project.
The demo was organized by civil society activists and attended by vocal Akkar MP Khaled al-Daher, Mufti of Akkar Sheikh Zeid Zakaria, two representatives of Akkar Greek Orthodox Bishop Basilios Mansour, and several municipal chiefs.
“You will not be able to bribe us with your 100 million dollars,” said Daher at the rally, addressing the government, which has recently earmarked $100 million for developmental projects in the impoverished district.
“Akkar will not be a garbage dump and we won't bargain over our dignity,” the lawmaker vowed.
He warned that residents will use their bodies to prevent the entry of any garbage truck into the region, calling on state authorities to “address Akkar's needs, establish universities, maintain the roads, and renovate the infrastructure.”
Addressing Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who is mediating between Akkar's dignitaries and the government, the MP urged him to “take his hands off Akkar.”
A plan devised by Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb and a team of experts calls for reopening the Naameh landfill, which was closed in mid-July, for seven days to dump the garbage that accumulated in random sites in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
It also envisions converting two existing dumps, in the northern Akkar area of Srar and the eastern border area of al-Masnaa, into “sanitary landfills” capable of receiving trash for more than a year.
After he announced his plan earlier this month, the civil society and local residents of Akkar, Naameh, Majdal Anjar, and Bourj Hammoud protested against the step, citing perceived environmental and health hazards.
On Saturday, Shehayyeb noted that the plan will only be implemented after reaching an understanding with the residents of Akkar, Bekaa, and Naameh.
“There is no need to use force against protesters to reopen the Naameh landfill or transport waste to the Srar landfill,” he said.
Experts have urged the government to devise a comprehensive waste management solution that would include more recycling and composting to reduce the amount of trash going into landfills.
Environmentalists fear the crisis could soon degenerate to the point where garbage as well as sewage will simply overflow into the sea from riverbeds as winter rains return.
The health ministry has warned that garbage scattered by seasonal winds could also block Lebanon's drainage system.
The trash crisis has sparked angry protests that initially focused on waste management but grew to encompass frustrations with water and electricity shortages and Lebanon's chronically divided political class.
Campaigns like "You Stink" brought thousands of people into the streets in unprecedented non-partisan and non-sectarian demonstrations against the entire political class.