Lebanon News

HRW warns Burj Hammoud landfill near capacity, advocates sorting at source

The Burj Hammoud landfill in Beirut, May 16, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The Burj Hammoud landfill will reach capacity by the end of next month, Human Rights Watch warned Tuesday, calling on the government to focus on reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills instead of expanding existing sites.

“There is no excuse for continuing to delay the implementation of a rights-compliant waste management system,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at HRW, in a statement.

“The government may be ready to bury its head in the sand but residents don’t want to end up buried in piles of trash.”

The statement came in response to the Environment Ministry’s submission, on June 3, to Prime Minister Saad Hariri of a road map that controversially advocated expanding the near-capacity landfill in Burj Hammoud. The landfill was initially intended to be a temporary solution to the 2015 garbage crisis, as well as the reopening of the Naameh landfill. The latter’s closure due to heavy local opposition was the cause of the crisis.

The assessment that the Burj Hammoud landfill would reach capacity by the end of next month ties in with the prediction of Toufic Kazmouz, who manages the site for contractor Khoury Contracting. He told The Daily Star last month that it would be full by August at the latest.

HRW singled out for criticism the fact that the Environment Ministry had failed to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment on the landfill’s expansion. The organization pointed out that this flies in the face of both one of the ministry’s own decrees (8633) and international guidelines.

A spokesperson for the ministry rejected HRW’s accusation that it had not carried out an EIA, and said the ministry would publish a rebuttal Wednesday.

In the statement, HRW called for the road map to be discussed in a ministerial committee for consideration with experts and for a public consultation before being finalized and submitted to Cabinet.

HRW endorsed a call earlier this month by environmental activist Paul Abi Rached for Lebanese residents to sort waste at home before depositing it at central locations at municipalities. Abi Rached, who represents NGOs on a 15-member committee that consults to the Environment Ministry on waste management, said that this would alleviate the pressure on the landfills.

The ministry’s road map advocates more sorting at the source, but does not go into detail on how to make this happen. Last month Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati began a pilot program for 20 municipalities to begin sorting at source. In an interview with The Daily Star published Tuesday, Jreissati said that as part of his waste management plan, the pilot could be expanded tenfold “very quickly.”

 

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