Lebanon launches clean-up campaign for “Beirut garbage river”

Piles of rubbish have become a common sight all over Beirut in recent months
Piles of rubbish have become a common sight all over Beirut in recent months

Lebanon has begun implementing a plan to end a rubbish crisis that last year led to big anti-government protests.

Several trucks filled with rubbish have gone to a landfill site that has been temporarily reopened as part of a four-year plan to resolve the problem.

The closure of the Naameh site in 2015 without an alternative in place caused the streets of Beirut and elsewhere to be deluged with uncollected rubbish.

Critics say a viable long-term solution to the problem remains elusive.

The Lebanon Daily Star reported that garbage trucks entered “the ill-famed Naameh landfill” for the first time on Saturday since its closure eight months ago triggered the severest “trash crisis” in Lebanon’s history.

Protesters say the government has failed to provide a lasting solution to Beirut's rubbish disposal crisis
Protesters say the government has failed to provide a lasting solution to Beirut’s rubbish disposal crisis
It is hoped that temporary rubbish dumps which have begun to appear all over Beirut will soon no longer exist
It is hoped that temporary rubbish dumps which have begun to appear all over Beirut will soon no longer exist

BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher says that as the Naameh site was used to dispose of all the rubbish from Beirut and Mount Lebanon, the consequences of its closure were predictable. The streets of the capital and the surrounding countryside were left choking with the stench of rotting rubbish.

The crisis triggered anti-government protests and a new movement, dubbed “You Stink”. It focused on the rubbish crisis as a symptom of wider corruption and official incompetence.

During hot summer weather, piles of rubbish grew so large that residents resorted to burning them on the streets, releasing toxic fumes.

The rubbish since then has piled up on beaches, in mountain forests and along river beds.

Two new landfill sites are to be opened later. But protesters say none of this will provide a lasting solution to the problem of waste management.

The government had been hoping to export the garbage, the Reuters news agency reported, but the scheme was abandoned last month because the firm that won the tender was unable to prove that Russia – the intended destination – had agreed to accept it.

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