Jacob Boswall, Sahar Houri – The Daily Star
Hundreds protested in north Lebanon Wednesday in opposition to the establishment of an area to temporarily “park” trash in the village of Terbol as part of a solution to the area’s waste crisis. Garbage began to be moved to a “parking” lot in Terbol overnight Tuesday, local environmental activist Mohamad El Dheiby told The Daily Star. Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati announced earlier this month that it would be stored there until a new sanitary landfill was built.
The decision aims to prevent trash piling up in the streets of the Minyeh-Dinnieh, Zgharta, Bsharri and Koura districts, as it has done since the closure of an unregulated local dump in the Dinnieh village of Aadoueh in April.
But Dheiby is concerned that the parking lot might become a permanent dump, exacerbating the very problem that the Environment Ministry is trying to prevent. Jreissati has said that closing Lebanon’s almost 1,000 open dumps is one of the ministry’s top priorities.
Although in theory the trash will only sit in the parking lot for a few months, “it could become permanent,” Dheiby claimed, alleging that the plot’s size was larger than necessary for a temporary solution.
The Environment Ministry could not be reached to clarify the reason for the site’s size.
The activist added that he supported the proposed sanitary landfill as a solution to the region’s rubbish woes, providing it adhered to environmental standards.
“From an environmental perspective [a sanitary landfill] does not impact Minyeh. I can sympathize with Jreissati’s plan,” he said.
In the meantime, locals from the Minyeh-Dinnieh and Zgharta districts expressed dissatisfaction with the interim solution, blocking a main road in north Lebanon’s Minyeh Wednesday morning. They later attempted to prevent trash entering the temporary dump by blocking the road between Alma and Terbol.
Late Tuesday night, protesters blocked two roads leading to Terbol’s dump and lit tires in an attempt to prevent trucks from accessing the landfill, local media reported.
Residents of Zgharta gathered Wednesday for a protest against the piling of trash in the streets.
Later in the day, citizens gathered outside the Tripoli Serail as north Lebanon Gov. Ramzi Nohra put forward the case for the temporary dump. The protesters denounced the opening of a new landfill, citing negative effects on groundwater and public health.
But Nohra described the Terbol landfill as the “least damaging” option and said that the location was chosen because it was “far from people,” the state-run National News Agency said. He also said a separation wall would be built and landfilling techniques would be used to avoid bad odors. “The objections we are witnessing today are without justification,” he added.
Chaker Noon, an adviser at the Environment Ministry, said that Terbol had been the ministry’s third choice for engineering and financial reasons, according to the NNA.
The decision had been taken “under pressure,” he said, but one benefit of the location was that it was far from residential areas.
In a separate news conference Wednesday, Jreissati admitted that the solutions to garbage crises would not please everybody.
“The unregulated Aadoueh dump has been there for … years and we did not hear anyone’s voice [in protest],” Jreissati said in response to the residents’ outcry against establishing the landfill in Terbol, referencing the dump that was shut down in April, leading to the crisis.
He stressed that the Terbol solution was only one part of an emergency plan to tackle the waste crisis in the area, and a sustainable solution was being worked on, but “it requires political agreement.”
The minister said that he had received proposals for four alternative sites between Minyeh and Dinnieh overnight, and that his ministry would study them.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week called for suspending work on the Terbol dump amid outcry from local residents.