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In video: Lebanon activists protest corruption, scuffle with police

[al-Araby al-Jadeed video]

Date of publication: 29 September, 2015

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Lebanese activists from the 'We Want Accountability' campaign staged a demo outside the ministry of energy building, to protest chronic power and water shortages caused by corruption.
Dozens of protesters blocked access to Lebanon's energy ministry early on Tuesday in a surprise demonstration against the notoriously ineffective and costly electricity sector.

Activists from the "We Want Accountability" campaign linked arms outside the building in Beirut's Corniche al-Nahr district, preventing employees from entering.

A scuffle broke out when security forces tried to pull protesters away from the entrances, resulting in several windows being broken.

Demonstrators lifted a massive banner outside the ministry that read "One bill, not two!" in reference to payments for government-provided electricity, as well as to local generator companies.

Lebanon is plagued with frequent power cuts because of outdated and damaged infrastructure.

Lebanon is plagued with frequent power cuts because of outdated and damaged infrastructure

Local generator companies have filled the gap by providing power when state electricity cuts off - but they often charge exorbitant prices.

The poor condition of the state's power infrastructure has been a major source of public frustration, and featured prominently in recent protests that saw thousands gather in central Beirut.

The "We Want Accountability" campaign has played a major role in those demonstrations, which were sparked by a rubbish collection crisis but later broadened to protest against electricity and water shortages and rampant corruption.

"This ministry does what other ministries do: steal the Lebanese public's money for the past thirty years," one protester said on Tuesday.

Activists pledged additional demonstrations at other ministries and called for a sit-in on Saturday outside the government's electricity centre in Beirut.

"It's not just the ministry of energy that our movement will target, but every single ministry. We will hold every corrupt person accountable," one protester said.

"We will surprise the authorities at a new centre of corruption every time, and we will continue to demand accountability for corrupt officials," said another.

Rubbish crisis continues

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has yet to begin implementing a permanent solution to the country's ongoing rubbish disposal crisis.

A plan proposed by the agriculture minister and approved by the government two weeks ago involves establishing new landfills in peripheral regions of Lebanon.

The Lebanese government has yet to begin implementing a permanent solution to the rubbish crisis

However, the plan continues to face hurdles from both local communities and activists, as refuse continues to pile in make-shift and unsanitary dumps in the capital Beirut.

The government's plan has been criticised in part by environmental activists, who fear a return to the same solutions that had triggered the current crisis, without implementing a long-term sustainabple plan.

In the meantime, a group of civil society campaigners called for a new plan that based on fermentation, and urged against the use of compactors in order to recover recyclables.

"The alternative plan to address the rubbish crisis must avoid the use of compactors when transferring waste so that 35 percent of the waste could be recycled," said Paul Abi Rached at a press conference held by TERRE Liban, an environmental NGO.

Abi Rached pointed out the hot summer sun had already fermented mountains of uncollected refuse.

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