Myra Abdallah

Amid river of trash, activists again call for protests

Describing it as a last warning, activists whom NOW spoke to have high hopes regarding the outcome of the planned protest and are planning escalatory measures



الفيديو الفضيحة الذي لا تريدك ان تراه السلطة اللبنانية الفاسد

الفيديو الفضيحة الذي لا تريدك السلطة اللبنانية الفاسدة أن تراه، شاهد للنهاية..الإنذار الأخير، السبت ١٢ أذار، الساعة ٤، من ساحة ساسين الاشرفية إلى ساحة رياض الصلح #طلعت_ريحتكم وقتلتونا

Posted by ‎طلعت ريحتكم‎ on Monday, March 7, 2016


Roughly seven months after the trash crisis first began in Lebanon, rivers of garbage bags are still visible across the country. Trash bags, filthy smells, flies and mosquitoes, along with the resulting diseases and viruses, are Lebanon’s current scenery. Several instanes of rainfall and the invasion of flies and mosquitos today are still raising fears of an epidemic. Many cases that point to a possible outbreak of diseases and viruses were reported, yet, there is still no resolution in sight. It has become clear that the garbage crisis in Lebanon is not about finding environmentally friendly solutions to dispose of the waste, but rather finding political solutions able to obtain the consent of all political parties. Recent reports have demonstrated a dangerous increase in the level of water and soil pollution in the country. Footage filmed by a drone over Lebanon recently posted by You Stink activists dramatically illustrates the enormous amount of trash that is still widespread on Lebanon’s streets.


The video, entitled “Rise above Lebanon’s political garbage”, was posted in conjunction with calls for a new protest by Lebanon’s civil society. After a relatively stagnate couple of months, the You Stink activists have decided to take to the streets again and give the Lebanese government a “last warning” to find a solution. “After seven months, we are giving the Lebanese government a last warning to find a solution for the garbage crisis, free of theft and corruption, with a final plan based on sorting and recycling trash,” says the invitation message to the protest on Saturday, March 12, that was posted to the Facebook event page created by You Stink organizers.  


“Saturday’s march comes after the false solutions that the government proposed,” said activist and director Lucien Bou Rjeily. “The government repeatedly tried to deceive people into thinking that it was coming up with real solutions. In fact, the government was removing the garbage from the streets and throwing it into rivers and valleys.” This course of action was the quickest and most direct solution to remove the garbage that was blocking Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s streets and dump it where it did not directly affect people’s lives in the short term. However, this harmed Lebanon’s environment on a larger scale and contributed to the rise in the level of pollution in the country. According to a report previously published by NOW, experts whom NOW spoke to confirmed that contaminated garbage produces a leachate that will seep into the groundwater and pollute it. In addition, burning the garbage was a solution adopted by several municipalities, which also contributed to raising the level of pollution in the air.


According to Chris Dersarkissian, head of the Domestic Waste Management Plan at Arc-en-ciel, during the winter season in Lebanon, the environment was more at risk. “People can feel the effect of the garbage crisis during the summer more than the winter because of the smell,” he told NOW. “The fermentation of garbage caused by summer heat creates a very bad smell and an outbreak of mosquitoes. However, during the winter, the leachate produced by garbage can pollute the groundwater. This is more dangerous.”


Bou Rjeily told NOW that the government and some municipalities are acting very indifferent towards the environment and the lives of Lebanese citizens. “For example, when we were filming the video, we arrived at a place where we couldn’t see garbage at all, but we knew that there was a dump nearby because the smell was horrible. When we tried to find out where the dump was, we discovered that it was under the street. They threw garbage bags [there] and then hid them with soil and rocks. They buried the garbage under the street, disregarding its effects on the environment and the people living in the area,” he told NOW.


For the past couple of months, the actions of civil movements calling for a solution for the garbage crisis were relatively tame compared to the initial outcry at the onset of the crisis. According to You Stink organizer Aly Sleem, the meetings never stopped, but the people needed a break. They also wanted to give the time requested by the government to develop and implement a solution. “We were observing the work of the government because we were almost certain that this political structure would not be able to find an environmentally friendly and permanent solution to the garbage crisis,” he said. “We are expecting a lot of people to participate in Saturday’s protest. We are giving a final notice to the government and we need people to support us.”


During previous protests, a number of participants acted violently as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction towards the government. Describing it as a last warning, activists whom NOW spoke to have high hopes regarding the outcome of the planned protest and are planning escalatory measure. “It will always be a non-violent protest and we will work hard to keep it this way,” said Sleem. “The coming steps may be calling again for the resignation of the government for example, or blocking roads. We will try to pressure the political powers in a non-violent way that also pushes Lebanese citizens to be part of it.”  


“The groundwater is already polluted. If the government does not find a proximate solution, we will reach a point when [Beirut] will become a city we can’t live in,” said Dersarkissian.


“We will try hard to succeed. Lebanon is our home. We will not allow anyone to destroy our home without trying to defend it,” said Bou Rjeily.


Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah

The coming steps may be calling again for the resignation of the government for example, or blocking roads.