Human Rights Watch condemns Lebanon’s inaction in garbage crisis

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The report comes a few weeks after trash began piling up on the streets in Beirut and its surrounding areas in scenes reminiscent of 2015.

by Tala Ramadan-Source: Annahar

A parking meter is seen between a pile of garbage on a Beirut street, Lebanon, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Garbage is piling up on the streets of Beirut amid a growing dispute over tiny Lebanon’s largest trash dump. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: As Lebanon’s perpetual garbage crisis continues to incur grave consequences on people’s health, the economy, and the environment, the Waste Management Coalition (WMC) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Lebanon’s unsustainable waste management system.

The report comes a few weeks after trash began piling up on the streets in Beirut and its surrounding areas in scenes reminiscent of 2015. The current garbage crisis surfaced after Borj Hammoud/Jdeideh landfill reached maximum waste capacity on April 30, 2020.

As a response to the situation, the Cabinet approved the vertical expansion of the landfill on May 5.

The landfill’s expansion, which will delay the garbage crisis for another three months, is broadly considered a stopgap measure. In the absence of well-defined legislation and stringent controls, waste management will remain a problem in Lebanon. Additionally, experts say that the landfill, which does not comply with international best practices and was established without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), is affecting nearby residents’ health. The initial establishment of the landfill itself was a supposedly temporary solution to the 2015 waste crisis. HRW had previously urged the government to adopt a more comprehensive solid waste management strategy that respects everyone’s right to health.

“Rights groups and environmental experts have been warning Lebanese decision-makers for years that Lebanon’s waste management practices are not sustainable,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The costs of inaction are huge, and residents are being denied their right to health and a healthy environment every day this crisis goes unaddressed.”

The lack of a comprehensive solid waste management strategy is incurring huge costs. The Waste Management Coalition found that Lebanon spends US$154.5 dollars to manage every ton of solid waste.

A 2004 World Bank study estimated the cost of environmental pollution from illegal dumping and waste burning at around $10 million per year. Another study in 2014 showed that the cost of environmental degradation from improper solid waste management is $66.5 million a year, 0.2 percent of the 2012 national GDP.

The study showed that improved waste management practices, such as recycling and composting, could save $74 million a year. Currently, about 85 percent of solid waste goes to open dumps or landfills. But according to the American University of Beirut (AUB), only 10 to 12 percent of Lebanon’s waste cannot be composted or recycled.

HRW’s report presented several recommendations that have been proposed to improve waste management in Lebanon. Solutions range from organizing public awareness programs, increasing efforts for recycling, resource recovery, strengthening the capacity of municipalities, and encouraging public-private partnerships.

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