A new trash plan in the pipeline

From top down to bot­tom up, nei­ther strat­egy is with­out bar­ri­ers

Executive Magazine - - Economics & Policy - By Matt Nash

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Akram Che­hayeb’s waste man­age­ment strat­egy is the equiv­a­lent of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment fi­nally throw­ing up its hands af­ter years of writ­ing plans it could never im­ple­ment and telling mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, “Fine, you deal with your garbage.” For most of the coun­try, this is not ex­actly a de­vi­a­tion from the sta­tus quo. Out­side of Beirut and most of Mount Le­banon (ex­clud­ing the Jbeil dis­trict) – mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been deal­ing with their own trash. Many have done a very bad job from an en­vi­ron­men­tal and public health per­spec­tive. While the coun­try has a 99 per­cent waste col­lec­tion rate, some 26 per­cent of its refuse was open dumped or burned prior to the July 17 clos­ing of Le­banon’s largest san­i­tary land­fill near Naameh, when that per­cent­age sub­stan­tially in­creased. An ex­pert who helped draft Che­hayeb’s plan – which was writ­ten in four days – ex­plains that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will be given train­ing on best in­ter­na­tional prac­tice, cash to sign con­tracts for waste so­lu­tions and help to write ten­der doc­u­ments in prepa­ra­tion for those con­tracts. When it comes to find­ing lo­ca­tions for waste treat­ment and dis­posal fa­cil­i­ties – the bar­rier that has pre­vented im­ple­men­ta­tion of mod­ern trash so­lu­tions for decades – the ex­pert says “the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will have to de­cide.”


Since the end of the civil war, Le­banon has not been able to fully im­ple­ment a sin­gle waste man­age­ment plan. Even the 1997 emer­gency plan for Beirut and Mount Le­banon – re­sult­ing in con­tracts be­tween the state and Averda com­pa­nies Suk­leen (col­lec­tion) and Sukomi (treat­ment and dis­posal) – was only par­tially im­ple­mented. Sukomi was sup­posed to re­ceive land to build two com­post­ing plants in or­der to di­vert 850 tons of or­ganic waste per day from the Naameh land­fill. In­stead, land was only pro­vided for one, mean­ing the amount of or­gan­ics sorted out of the ser­vice area’s waste stream stood at 300 tons per day. The emer­gency plan was clearly not meant to last for­ever. Ac­cord­ing to a 2001 re­port com­mis­sioned by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, new ten­der doc­u­ments for waste col­lec­tion in the ser­vice area were pre­pared in ei­ther 2000 or 2001 - the re­port is un­clear. The re­port notes, “ten­der in­vi­ta­tions were is­sued but sub­se­quently aborted as only two bids were re­ceived.” Dur­ing this same time pe­riod, the rest of the coun­try was left to deal with its waste how­ever it could. A 2010 re­port, again com­mis­sioned by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, notes “aus­ter­ity mea­sures by the [gov­ern­ment] have pre­vented many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties [from plan­ning for and in­vest­ing in] proper solid waste sys­tems. They typ­i­cally re­ceive their bud­getary al­lowances from the In­de­pen­dent Mu­nic­i­pal Fund (IMF) sev­eral years be­hind sched­ule and there­fore tend to re­sort to quick so­lu­tions and fixes, in­clud­ing open dump­ing.” Un­con­trolled dump­ing and trash burn­ing pre-dates the war and has never been prop­erly ad­dressed. Be­tween 2003 and 2013, how­ever, four plans were de­vel­oped to pro­vide na­tion­wide waste man­age­ment so­lu­tions. None have gone into ef­fect.


When then Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Mikati re­signed in March 2013, there was plenty of un­fin­ished work left be­hind, in­clud­ing the need to ap­prove a na­tional waste plan fo­cused on build­ing in­cin­er­a­tors to turn waste into energy. Eleven months later, a new gov­ern­ment was in place and, in short or­der, a new min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee was tasked with writ­ing yet another waste man­age­ment plan. Un­like be­fore, how­ever, Prime Min­is­ter Tam­mam Salam’s cab­i­net this time promised to close the Naameh land­fill for good – mean­ing that to avert a na­tional trash catas­tro­phe, a so­lu­tion would have to be in place be­fore the sched­uled Jan­uary 2015 clo­sure. The com­mit­tee was ini­tially due to an­nounce its plan in April 2014. It did not. Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment Mo­ham­mad Mach­nouk has ig­nored Ex­ec­u­tive’s in­ter­view re­quests for the past two

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