SIDON, Lebanon: Following the Cabinet’s approval of the Interior Ministry’s request to pay for the cost of processing waste at Sidon’s recently completed treatment plant, sources say the premises will be operational within two to three months.
Sources told The Daily Star that the Cabinet has approved the ministry’s request to pay for the operating of the new treatment plant using money from the independent municipal fund. They added that the price of processing one ton of waste was agreed at $85 for the first two years and $95 per ton for the third and fourth years.
In November 2002, Sidon municipality signed a contract with IBC company setting out the terms for establishing and operating a waste treatment plant for the Sidon and Zahrani areas.
In March 2012, IBC contacted the municipality and said that it consented to the terms of the contract and to the prices agreed for the treatment of waste.
According to the sources, the new plant, which is located in Sinniq to the south of Sidon, is technically ready and its crew is already in training.
They added that the plant has a very high level of productivity and is capable of treating tons of Sidon and Zahrani waste every day.
According to an official at the independent municipal fund, the cost of operating the plant will be around $12 million per annum, some 13 times the annual revenue of the Zahrani-Sidon union of municipalities, which totaled LL1.3 billion in 2010.
In addition, the cost of collecting and transporting waste, which the union will pay to NTCC company, is estimated at LL3,266,864 per month.
After discussion, the Cabinet decided to approve the request to pay the cost, and asked Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi along with Interior Minister Charbel to prepare a report on the situation in the municipalities within one month.
For his part, Sidon Mayor Mohammed Saudi described the receipt of official approval to operate the new plant as “an important step that will speed up ridding the city of its chronic environmental disaster and finally removing the dump.”
The plant’s completion came as yet another fire broke out last week at Sidon’s municipal dump.
As the city’s municipality was busy congratulating Sidon’s residents and thanking Charbel for contributing to the completion of the treatment plant, municipal firefighters worked together with the Army to extinguish the blaze, which burned for several hours.
It is not clear whether the incident was caused by arson or because of high summer temperatures, according to the sources.
However, all the sources agreed that the time has come to rid the city of the dump, which has been an environmental hazard for almost four decades.
With the ministry’s approval of the cost of processing waste at the new plant, the closure of the dump comes one step closer. The new treatment plant will only process new waste, but in doing so it will divert garbage away from the existing dump.
Meanwhile, a separate waste management project will see the eventual closure and removal of the dump.
This project includes the building of a water barrier in the area southwest of the dump and the use of suitable waste from it to reclaim some 550,000 square meters of land from the sea.
The project is funded jointly by Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese government, and the land reclaimed will be used for economic or tourist initiatives.