Lebanon's garbage crisis gets temporary solution

The Lebanese government has announced a temporary solution for the country's eight-month trash crisis. It plans to open three landfills, but activists say the move doesn't address larger issues of government inefficiency and corruption.

Activists call for general strike on Monday

The Lebanese government announced Saturday a temporary solution for the country's eight-month trash crisis by opening three landfills as thousands protested in downtown Beirut.

Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said after an eight-hour cabinet meeting that the temporary solution will last four years and by then a permanent solution will be in place.

In Beirut more than 2,000 protesters rejected the option of temporary landfills and demanded a more long-term waste-disposal plan.

A woman covers her mouth with a medical mask as she passes by a pile of garbage in Beirut on March 4. Local governments have been forced to shovel garbage onto the margins of roads and rivers since state authorities closed a major landfill last July without planning for the day after. (Hassan Ammar/Associated Press)

The trash crisis began in July, when the country's main landfill in the town of Naameh just south of Beirut was scheduled to close, with no real alternative landfills available. Naameh area residents said the dump was over capacity and began blocking the roads to prevent garbage trucks from reaching it.

As garbage began piling up in Beirut, protesters formed the "You Stink" movement, demanding sweeping reform in Lebanon's government.

Since the peaks of the protest in the summer, authorities have blunted the public anger by ensuring that the streets of Beirut are kept relatively garbage-free. However, the trash has been pushed to the city's periphery, where it piles up along the roadside and the banks of the Beirut River.

Jreij said that the Naameh landfill will be reopened for two months to take in tens of thousands of tonnes of trash that have piled around the country. He added that two other landfills and treatment plants will be opened, north and south of Beirut.

Jreij said the state will compensate areas that host landfills with significant payments and development projects. He said the government will pay $6 for every ton that is sent to Naameh.

Jreij said the government will distribute $40 million this year to municipalities that agree to host landfills and spend another $50 million over the next four years on development projects in those areas.

Assad Thebian, one of the protest organizers since the trash crisis began, told The Associated Press that activists are studying the government's plan and will make an announcement soon.

Earlier Saturday, more than 2,000 protesters chanted: "We are fed up." The protesters are calling for a general strike on Monday.


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