Itani de­nies in­tent to build in­cin­er­a­tor in Karantina

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Fed­er­ica Marsi

BEIRUT: A waste-to-en­ergy project sparked protests in Karantina last week when res­i­dents and lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­ceived word that the area had been cho­sen as the site for the in­cin­er­a­tion sys­tem’s con­struc­tion.

Beirut Mayor Ja­mal Itani, how­ever, dis­missed the news as hearsay. “We have not de­cided yet where to im­ple­ment the plant,” Itani told The Daily Star. When asked why the res­i­dents had been mis­in­formed, Itani said “ru­mors” had spread be­cause “some of the politi­cians are try­ing to gain ground in Karantina,” but re­fused to elab­o­rate fur­ther.

The pro­posed waste-to-en­ergy plant is a project spear­headed by the Beirut mayor and touted as the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s so­lu­tion to the on­go­ing waste cri­sis. But the project has sparked op­po­si­tion from seg­ments of Lebanon’s civil so­ci­ety who op­pose the in­cin­er­a­tion of waste.

“Even if the plant is within norms and reg­u­la­tions, an in­cin­er­a­tor pol­lutes,” Raja Nou­jaim, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, told The Daily Star at the Karantina protest last week. “In Lebanon, our [ad­di­tional] prob­lem is that noth­ing is [car­ried out] within norms and reg­u­la­tions.”

For­mer Karantina mukhtar Fran­cois Jalkh re­ferred to the pro­posed plant as the “in­cin­er­a­tor of death” and said the neigh­bor­hood’s com­mu­nity would op­pose any such project. Some res­i­dents in the area – which al­ready ac­com­mo­dates two open-air dumps – even aired the pos­si­bil­ity of re­quest­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of Karantina from Beirut Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Itani, how­ever, dis­missed the res­i­dents’ con­cerns. “The lo­ca­tion will be risk-free to the peo­ple in the area and all mea­sures will be taken to en­sure that it will not bother [res­i­dents] but in­stead en­hance the econ­omy of the area,” he said.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ap­pointed a con­sul­tant to de­velop a mas­ter plan de­signed to trans­form Karantina into a ma­jor eco­nomic hub of Beirut, ac­cord­ing to Itani. “I don’t want to talk about these plans be­fore they are [con­sol­i­dated] but very soon we will start con­struc­tion of a new eco­nomic area [in Karantina],” he said.

When asked whether this plan ex­cludes the pos­si­bil­ity of the wasteto-en­ergy plant be­ing im­ple­mented in Karantina, Itani re­mained vague. “We have not de­cided yet where to im­ple­ment the plant, so I can­not say any­thing fur­ther,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to sources who have par­tic­i­pated in some of the meet­ings re­gard­ing the plant, the project has not been well-re­ceived at the pres­i­den­tial palace and the is­sue has de­volved into a row be­tween Itani’s po­lit­i­cal back­ers and Aoun’s of­fice.

Lo­cal ac­tivists in the area voiced sus­pi­cions of a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion be­tween the choice of Karantina and the pres­ence of Ji­had al-Arab’s com­pany – Al-Ji­had for Com­merce and Con­tract­ing – among the four joint ven­tures pre-se­lected as bid­ders.

JCC has been awarded sev­eral pub­lic con­struc­tion projects in the past – some of which have been in or ad­ja­cent to Karantina – in­clud­ing the for­mer Nor­mandy dump­site, the Karantina and Am­rousieh waste sort­ing plants, as well as a stor­age fa­cil­ity and the Co­ral com­post­ing fa­cil­ity in Burj Ham­moud. All of these projects have been sub­ject to pub­lic crit­i­cism over al­leged mis­man­age­ment, spark­ing de­bate as to whether JCC should be em­pow­ered to op­er­ate yet an­other fa­cil­ity.

Itani as­sured The Daily Star that the se­lec­tion of the com­pa­nies had been con­ducted by the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram, with no in­ter­fer­ence by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. He dis­missed any claims that Ji­had al-Arab’s com­pany was be­ing given any ad­van­tage over the oth­ers.

“The lo­ca­tion is pro­vided by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and not by the con­trac­tor,” Itani said, im­ply­ing that JCC would not have a say in where the plant would be. “The mu­nic­i­pal­ity will pro­vide the land and we will take an eq­uity share in the com­pany. We will con­tinue to have a hand in the con­trol of the op­er­a­tion in the plant.”

At present, the Dan­ish con­sult­ing com­pany Ram­boll is pre­par­ing the ten­der doc­u­ments for the project, which will de­fine the size, shape and other specifics of the plant. “When these cri­te­ria have been de­fined, then we will se­lect a lo­ca­tion,” Itani said.

Along­side J CC, the other lo­cal p re qual­i­fied con­trac­tors in­clude Was sim Am­mache’s Ramco, An­toine Azour’s Batco and Michel Abi Nader’s Man. They have each part­nered up with in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies – re­spec­tively Doosan (Korean), Hi­tachi (Ja­panese), and Vinci (French). JCC has part­nered with Suez (French) and an­other in­ter­na­tional com­pany.

While waste-to-en­ergy plants in Europe gen­er­ally pro­duce mostly heat and a smaller pro­por­tion of elec­tri­cal en­ergy, the win­ning bid­der for this project will be re­quired to de­sign a plant that boosts en­ergy pro­duc­tion. Itani vows that this en­ergy will then be sold to Lebanon’s na­tional elec­tric­ity com­pany and re­dis­tributed to the pub­lic. The con­trac­tor will also be re­spon­si­ble for ship­ping the ashes – a haz­ardous ma­te­rial left over from the process – to coun­tries where it can be ad­e­quately treated.

As for now, Itani says it will take at least six months to con­clude the pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies. “We will con­duct an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact assess­ment, a traf­fic im­pact assess­ment and a so­cial im­pact assess­ment be­fore we se­lect the lo­ca­tion,” he said. Al­though the waste cri­sis has al­ready taken a heavy toll on Karantina, Itani said the area would be safe­guarded. “It’s the en­trance to Beirut,” he said. “We will never do any­thing to hurt this area.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.