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Lebanon garbage crisis: HRW calls for waste management law

Lebanon's government has failed to take effective action against the garbage crisis [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 March, 2018

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Human Rights Watch has urged Lebanon's parliament to schedule a vote on a waste management law to tackle the country's long-running garbage crisis, ahead of parliamentary elections in May.
Human Rights Watch has urged Lebanon's government to set a vote on a waste management law ahead of parliamentary elections in May.

A petition signed by 12,000 people is calling on parliament to pass a national law and develop a strategy on waste management - an issue that has dogged the country for years.

"Time is quickly running out for parliament to pass a waste management law," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Lebanon's residents have made it clear that they expect their elected representatives to take immediate and decisive action to end the ongoing waste crisis."

HRW found in a December 2017 report that open burning at more than 150 open dumps across Lebanon was risking the health and violating the human rights of nearby residents, leaving Lebanon in breach of its obligations under international law.

The garbage crisis peaked in August 2015 after the government was unable to secure a new landfill following the closure of the Beirut and Mt Lebanon waste dump site in Naameh, located just south of the Lebanese capital.

Demonstrators rallied under the banner "
You Stink" – a reference to both the garbage stench accompanying the summer heat, and the gridlock that has come to define Lebanese politics and paralysed administrative services for years.

Lebanon has never had a national waste management law although a draft law has been stuck in parliament since 2012. It came before the joint committees of parliament in January, and sent back to the environment committee for amendments to be made.

A member of that committee told HRW the amendments were completed, but the speaker of parliament Nabih Berri has not referred it back to the joint committees, the final step before scheduling a vote by the full parliament.

The law would set clear lines of authority over waste management, ban open dumping and burning of waste, and set penalties for violations.

HRW acknowledged Beirut had made some progress to tackle the crisis, including a plan to expand two coastal landfills and a new composting facility.

The health ministry in February called for an end to the open burning of waste, and created a mobile app for residents to report violations.

Cabinet also allocated $20 million to begin closing or rehabilitating the 941 open dumps across Lebanon, though it focuses on wealthier areas Beirut and Mount Lebanon, HRW said.

"Lebanon urgently needs a national law on waste management to end this crisis, yet this bill has sat in parliament since 2012," Fakih said. "It would be inexcusable for parliamentarians to end their nine-year term without tackling this issue."

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