As I previously announced, My Beirut Chronicles is going to publish other writers with similar or opposite views than mine.
Today: an important article by Rima Tarabay, vice president of Bahr Loubnan and president of Ecotown. Dr. Tarabay proposes, in a clear exposé, a comprehensive solution for the ongoing garbage crisis in Lebanon.
'Solution for the ongoing garbage crisis in Lebanon' by Rima Tarabay
Dealing with garbage removal requires a more comprehensive solution than just collecting and treating garbage. Garbage is one of the biggest problems in Lebanon and around the globe since the world’s population is increasing rapidly. The majority of countries are facing this problem and need to put in place a long term political solution to deal with it. It is not an easy task, but it is necessary to devise sustainable global plan. All countries of the world are classified into 1 of the 3 categories: developed economies, economies in transition and developing economies.
Lebanon falls under the economies in transition category. One of the positive points is that 60 % of Lebanon’s garbage is organic and the 40 % that is not organic should either be recycled or dumped. Sources of generated solid waste in Lebanon: Private homes/population, plants, agriculture, hospitals, restaurants, construction companies, etc.
Garbage treatment in Lebanon has been problematic, especially in the regions outside of the capital. The basic methods for the proper disposal of industrial wastes, by burying and/or burning, and hazardous wastes, such as used batteries, used tires, chassis (vehicle frames), are not mentioned in Lebanon’s waste management laws and regulations. In fact, there is not a long term plan to manage any type of solid waste. The law on waste management is very confusing and contradictory due to a multitude of ministries and administrations handling this file. The ministries and administrations involved are Health, Interior, and Environment ministries, the Council for Development and Reconciliation (CDR), and municipalities. In 2002, and referring to Environment Law 444, the government defined the regulations with the concerned ministries:
- Choice of sites, which can be used as dumpsites, places for sorting and waste treatment.
- A system was developed for the Ministry of Environment to follow for the total treatment of waste.
- Hazardous waste, wastes known to be harmful to human health, were listed and banned from being sold, stored, used or transported on Lebanese territory.
- List of wastes which can be imported sold, stored or used on Lebanese territory.
- Conditions to import sub-waste products.
According to Law 444, all quarry sites where operations have ceased must be rehabilitated by the person or legal entity responsible for its degradation. In 2006, the Lebanese government approved a long-term national trash strategy that was developed by the CDR. The new plan focused on:
- Implementing a recycling program in order to reduce the amount of waste buried in landfills; and the construction of a facility for sorting, recycling and composting the waste.
- Dividing the country into 4 service areas: northern Lebanon and Akkar, the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek, southern Lebanon and Nabatiyeh, Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
- Rewarding municipalities that effectively adopt the regulations—municipalities will receive funds for every ton of waste.
- Municipalities will be in charge of collecting and transporting the waste to the designated areas.
- Contractors will be responsible for funding related studies and executing and constructing the plant, which will be under their authority for a period of 10 years and will be compensated for each ton treated of treated waste.
- One or more dumpsites must be established in each of the 4 service areas mentioned above. They should also establish a plant for selective waste as well as compost.
- The compost should be used in agriculture.
- The contractors, ministry and the municipalities should conduct awareness campaigns to educate the public of the benefits of proper disposal of waste.
Since then, this plan has only been implemented in the Greater Beirut area. Governments that succeeded chose to incinerate the waste rather than recycle.
Today with the current crisis, a roadmap for a sustainable waste management plan must urgently be implemented. The plan should include the following:
1) It should specify who is in charge of handling the file (waste management), which ministry will have the final say even if there are multiple sectors involved.
2) The law should clearly specify who is in charge of waste management, because in 2002 this authority was given to the Ministry of Environment but its power was limited.
3) I suggest that the Ministry of Environment be given the final authority, which cannot be re-evaluated by any other authority.
4) Law 444 should be reviewed and updated.
5) Sorting garbage at home should be enforced by the government as well as written in the law.
6) Recycling paper, plastic, glass, should also be implemented and introduced as a law.
7) All hazardous waste, such as waste from hospitals, plants, batteries, etc., should be listed as hazardous and submitted to a particular recycling facility or be treated in an environmentally safe manner to prevent land and water pollution.
8) Incinerators should be banned if not used properly and only to provide energy.
9) Waste should be reduced at the source. Conduct awareness campaigns and lobby to reduce garbage; these campaigns should be led by the government and NGO’s.
10) A concrete and detailed national plan should be written and implemented, one that can be used as a road map for waste management treatment.
Rima Tarabay is the vice president of Bahr Loubnan, an NGO whose mission is to fight coastal & marine pollution, and president of Ecotown. She holds a PhD in Geography/Sustainable Development from Sorbonne Paris IV.
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