Lebanon News

Tashnag Party joins garbage showdown

Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Sorted waste will not be allowed to enter the Burj Hammoud landfill as of Wednesday, until construction at the site resumes, the Tashnag Party said in a statement Tuesday night. “The steps agreed upon in the Cabinet meeting on March 12, 2016, should go on as discussed with no further delays or hindrances,” the statement read, referring the government’s plan to build a landfill at the site. The party said it had made its decision in agreement with the municipality.

The statement comes in response to calls for the Tashnag Party’s participation in the protests. Activists and protesters from the Kataeb Party have blocked construction workers and trucks from entering the site of the proposed landfill, located east of Beirut.

Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb and MP Sami Gemayel have been locked in a war of words over the last few weeks regarding the landfill and its potential effect on the health of Metn residents.

The agriculture minister, who was tasked with dealing with the trash crisis, fired back at Gemayel and the protesters Tuesday.

“The alternative to the landfill will be the return of trash to the streets,” Chehayeb said at a news conference.

“As if the social and economic issues facing the country are not enough ... there are those who have re-entered through the backdoor with different faces, for what they claim is the sake of the nation. But, on the inside, they have personal interests,” Chehayeb said.

The minister went on to say that “tampering with health and the environment is to be rejected and is no longer acceptable.”

His news conference came a week after Kataeb chief Sami Gemayel called on Lebanese to join his party’s protest outside the landfill. Gemayel said the solution to the crisis is the decentralization of the waste sector.

Responding to the call for decentralization, Chehayeb said, “I assure you that the decentralization plan is still alive, and any municipality that is ready can present its proposal to the Central Technical Committee. But there must be a centralized plan for the time being so another trash crisis does not occur, such as the one which started in July of 2015.”

The Lebanon Eco Movement announced its decision to join the protests against the creation of the landfill Tuesday.

The movement’s head, Paul Abi Rached, said there were less costly waste management solutions, and the government needed to get rid of Chehayeb and the trash committee.

“You are breaching the Barcelona Agreement and Lebanese laws,” Abi Rached said at a televised news conference held outside the landfill site.

Kataeb Party activist Raja Najeem said he also blamed the agriculture minister. “We hold the ‘Chehayeb Committee’ responsible for this environmental disaster,” he said at the news conference.

For almost two weeks, the Kataeb has been holding regular protests outside the landfill’s entrance. Last week, Gemayel called on the Lebanese people to stand by him to end what he said would bring “10 years of environmental damage” to the area.

Trash is currently being taken to storage lots in Costa Brava, south of Beirut, and to Burj Hammoud, where new landfills are slated to be built.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 24, 2016, on page 2.

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