Lebanon News

Mayor threatens to quit over dump closure delay

A crane works to remove a garbage truck that flipped over near the dump.(Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star)

SIDON, Lebanon: Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi is considering resigning his post in protest over the obstruction of a project to permanently shut the city’s notorious dump, a source close to the mayor said Monday.

There is also speculation in the halls of Sidon’s municipality that the municipal council may collectively resign alongside the mayor if the project does not move forward.

The source told The Daily Star that Saudi had accepted his appointment as mayor on the condition that his electoral program include closing down Sidon’s waste dump, opening a waste treatment center and solving the problem of wastewater.

The project to close down the dump received the approval of Cabinet on Nov. 6 last year, and a contract was signed with the Reconstruction and Development Council. A $20 million donation from Saudi Arabia has also been dedicated for the project, with additional funding to come from the Cabinet’s budget.

The source added that Saudi had received several promises from ministers, MPs, and other politicians to begin implementing the long-awaited project.

The project to close down Sidon’s dump was about to be implemented, but several obstacles are now blocking its implementation and it is currently in the hands of Environment Minister Nazim Khoury, “which brings us back to square one,” the source said.

According to the source, Saudi has only been able to achieve a fraction of his political program while the rest has been blocked.

“We were able to close down 90 percent of wastewater canals going into the sea, so we can consider this project done; however, the waste treatment plant project is being held at the judicial level due to issues between the city’s municipality and the company in charge of the plant,” the source said.

“As for the project to close down the dump, it’s still being delayed while the waste dump increases in size and garbage falls into the sea, making it more polluted,” the source continued. “Without any sign of hope, Sidon’s mayor will announce his resignation to the public, while a number of municipal members have suggested resigning collectively and closing down the municipal palace.”

The source concluded by saying that the municipal council had taken a decision to no longer let neighboring villages dispose of their waste at the city’s dump but retracted it 40 days later, after receiving guarantees that the dump would be closed and work would start on a maritime barrier to stop waste from falling from the landfill into the sea.

Separately, Sidon’s dump witnessed an accident Monday after a garbage truck flipped over. The truck was driving on a road that had recently been built on the dump’s southern side after the dump reached full capacity and its northern side was closed.

The truck’s driver and passengers survived the accident and a crane came to the scene to remove the vehicle.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 06, 2011, on page 3.

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