SIDON, Lebanon: Local residents of Sidon welcomed Tuesday the completion of a yearlong project to transform the city’s notorious “trash mountain” into a modern landfill and, eventually, a public park.
“I can’t believe that the dump has been removed,” said Siham al-Abed, who lives close to the site. “It’s a tremendous job; we are no longer bothered by the smell or fires.”
Fisherman Nabih Bouji was also thrilled by the results.
“We have suffered a lot,” he said. “Our nets used to be filled with garbage rather than fish. It is a happy ending to this dump that fatigued us for decades.”
At one time, the huge hill of trash topped 58 meters and encompassed around 6 hectares of space. Accumulated gases would sporadically erupt into fires, and the smell of the garbage would waft over the city.
Then, about a year ago, the Environment Ministry and the United Nations Development Program signed an agreement to tackle the waste crisis in cooperation with the Sidon municipality.
In total, 1.5 million cubic meters of waste was processed and deposited in three separate landfills, which form a single 8-meter-high mound. Pipelines were laid to draw out the gases released by decomposing waste.
The waste was then covered with a layer of protective plastic topped with soil. The knoll is expected to turn green over the coming year, and after seven years, it will be opened as a public park. In the meantime, a 30,000-square-meter public garden is being built next to the landfill.
For his part, Sidon’s Mayor Mohammad Saudi said he could not be happier that the city’s trash “nightmare” had come to an end.
“When I was elected to this position, I promised the residents of Sidon that I would terminate the dump, and now we have done it,” Saudi told The Daily Star.
“The work is in progress to turn that contaminated area into a green one,” he added.
Saudi also responded to criticism that he used the project as cover to reclaim part of the sea by extending the coast and creating a real estate company similar to Solidere to exploit the area.
“This talk is intended to stoke political sensitivities and I have never responded to these things,” he said. “What I care about is that I fulfilled my promise. This dump, with all the contamination it carried, pushed me to become mayor to remove it.”
“I think this is the first project [of its kind] in the Middle East and it’s an exemplary one because we learned a lot from it,” said Jamal Mahfoud, project manager at Jihad Trading and Contracting Company, which implemented the dump’s closure project and created landfills.
Moreover, he said, the company completed the project six months before the contract’s deadline.