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TRASH CITY: Beirut Garbage War Could Topple ‘Impotent’ Central Government

21st Century Wire says…

There has been a long-simmering weariness over the Lebanese central government’s endless in-fighting and increasing dysfunction – and this public angst appears to have reached a boiling point over the weekend. 

Yesterday, Lebanese Army units were deployed in central Beirut to deal with violent street protests over the city’s uncollected garbage left piling up in the city streets.

Lebanese activists shout anti-government slogans as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a protest against the ongoing trash crisis, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Protests are being organized a the group calling itself “You Stink” named after both the growing piles of garbage and impotent political leaders in the capital city. CNN reports:

“We are here today against sectarianism of the Lebanese government, our parliament of thieves that stole from the people’s pockets, forcing our youth to emigrate,” said one protester who only gave his first name, Mohammed, to CNN. “We are here to protest against lack of jobs, poverty and hunger. “

Already, at least one protester has been killed and many others injured, along with and policeman injured, in clashes between activists and security forces in downtown Beirut. Al Jazeera reports:

“A protester has been killed during anti-corruption demonstrations in Beirut, the first fatality since mass demonstrations began in the Lebanese capital on Saturday, the Red Cross has said.”

“Ambulances ferried out casualties after security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon at demonstrators protesting against what they call Lebanon’s “political dysfunction”.

Thousands of protesters took to the increasingly smelly streets of Beirut, congregating mostly downtown in Riad El Solh Square. Tear gas and riot police could be seen throughout the weekend.

Getting past talk of stench and the usual headlines for this story, 21WIRE has found a more in-depth look into the fundamental, perennial problems which constantly plague the Lebanese political scene…

Innovative Lebanese-style solution to the garbage crisis.

Invisible garbage, visible activism

Habib Battah

Beirut Report

One wealthy mountain suburb seems to have developed a unique technology to fight Lebanon’s garbage crisis (see photo above). Or is it your 3rd grade Halloween costume? Maybe they were waiting for a magician.

Indeed, in other areas, once-festering roadside piles have magically disappeared overnight:

Meanwhile some municipalities claim they are recycling but residents say they are just making use of nearby valleys:

Many have documented the piles being burned at night, sending suffocating fumes into the skies: “My lungs are suffering,” a young person living nearby one dump told me.

Another tragic example is the picturesque mountain town of Beit Mery, as seen in this widely shared Facebook post:

PHOTO: Khalil El Khoury

It remains unclear if this huge amount of waste here is generated solely by the Beit Mery municipality or if other towns and neighborhoods in Beirut are contributing. Could such dumping be happening without the municipality’s consent? And why would they allow it?

As I told CNN in an interview last week, the only silver lining to this crisis seems to be the renewed and energized national conversation about recycling and waste management–following years of neglect–and the creation of a new breed of activism around it. The group “Tol3at Ri7itkom” ( You Stink) has been holding meetings and organizing protests, as documented by blogger Hassan Chamoun, who has been extensively covering their work:

PHOTO: Hassan Chamoun

(For some great videos of the protests, check his page, “Thoughts of a Young Arab Adult“)

With over 22,000 likes in the space of a couple of weeks, the “You Stink” campaign’s popular Facebook page allows citizens to post videos documenting illegal dumping across the country:

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They have even launched a few stunts, such as dumping garbage bags at ministers’ front doorsteps:

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They have used a crowd-funding campaign and even put their protest budget online, unlike most of Lebanon’s non-transparent government institutions.

Others are getting their hands dirty and literally picking up the mess, as we have seen with the continued work of recycling entrepreneur Ziad Abi Chaker. His team managed to process nearly 300 cubic meters in one day by bringing recycling machines to a major pile in the town of Zouk:



As always, many others in Lebanon have become depressed, languishing in cynicism or despair, which have become the trademark coping mechanisms for dealing with crisis after crisis in this country. Indeed, it takes a lot of strength and dedication to stay motivated and get things done in Lebanon…

Read full article at Beirut Report

READ MORE LEBANON NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Lebanon Files



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