The You Stink campaign Thursday called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam to grant municipalities full authority over the disposal of local waste, after what seemed like a return to square one in the trash crisis following the scandal involving a waste export company.
“Transfer municipalities their owed funds immediately, assign municipalities (the task) of sweeping, collecting, bagging and sterilizing (trash) within their administrative boundaries, where they would be penalized for violations," Sarah Abu Kamel said in a press conference from Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square.
Abu Kamel called on the government to collect the trash that has been sitting in unofficial dump sites on streets and in valleys around the country, and to follow an announced plan until a permanent solution is agreed upon.
“After implementing the aforementioned items, establish a National Emergency Commission, headed by Salam and based at the Grand Serail, and give it a one month deadline to find sustainable solutions, where no one leaves before a comprehensive agreement over the issue is reached,” she continued.
Protesters had begun gathering in the square at approximately 8:00 p.m., denouncing the Cabinet for not accepting other solutions to the crisis and “allowing the robbery by ministers to continue.”
Abu Kamel called for those involved in corruption related to the waste crisis to be held accountable, saying that the activists would not allow the political class “to fill their bank accounts” at the expense of citizens, which she claims carried out agreements at the expense of citizens’ health.
Activists have continuously accused politicians of seeking to divide the commission that would be made in a waste export deal approved by the Cabinet in December.
“This crisis has gone on for seven months, and it would have taken us six months to build recycling plants, but the Cabinet didn’t want this ... Now they’re talking about resorting back to incinerators, a cause of cancer,” a You Stink activist told reporters.
Chinook Urban Mining, the British firm chosen to export Lebanon's garbage, was given until Friday by Salam to produce the required permits to send the country's trash to Russia, which has allegedly agreed to receive the waste.
Chinook has been at the center of controversy since Russia's environment ministry said earlier this week that documents it received from the company concerning Lebanon's trash export plan were forged.
The accusations came after the Cabinet approved a decree last week to transfer $50 million to the Council for Development and Reconstruction to begin its work with Chinook.
It was revealed Thursday that a lawyer representing Chinook in Lebanon had quit the case, according to an internal company memo circulated online dated Wednesday.
The CDR defended its position, claiming that “it did not sign any contract with anyone concerning the exportation of trash.”
“Whoever wants to know any information regarding the work of the CDR should request it directly, instead of spreading baseless rumors,” the CDR said in statement.