BEIRUT / SIDON, Lebanon: The cleanup of a Kesrouan beach that had been covered with garbage by last week’s storm began Tuesday on the orders of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The prime minister also agreed to redirect mountains of waste from struggling processing plants in the southern city of Sidon to the Costa Brava landfill once it reopens, sources told The Daily Star.
Hariri’s request for a rapid cleanup was made Monday night after photographs and videos of the beach covered with waste caused an outcry.
The storm was believed to have swept trash from the controversial coastal Burj Hammoud landfill out to sea and north along the coast before it washed up on the shores of Zouk Mosbeh.
The Higher Relief Committee implemented the cleanup, acting in a supervisory role, according to the state-run National News Agency.
Workers headed in the early morning to the Zouk Mosbeh beach that was carpeted with a thick layer of rubbish during the storm, which brought strong winds, rain and tidal surges to the coast.
The trash removal process, the NNA said, was being carried out in six different sections of Lebanon’s coast-adjacent area, including near the Nahr al-Kalb river, Zalqa, and the Burj Hammoud landfill.
Senior politicians disputed the source of the trash, however.
MP Akram Chehayeb said that it came from streams whose banks had been used for illegal dumping before landfills were created and when the Burj Hammoud landfill was temporarily closed.
Environment Minister Tarek Khatib also said that the trash had been carried onto the beach from Nahr al-Kalb.
Khatib visited the Metn town of Beit Shabab to see the amount of rubbish that accumulated in the valley.
The minister said that Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel was leading a “misinformation campaign” after Gemayel publicly denounced the government’s approach to the waste crisis and Khatib himself when he visited Zouk Mosbeh Monday.
Higher Relief Committee Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir told local media channel LBCI that the trash would be taken to the Karantina waste sorting plant.
Meanwhile, municipalities under the Federation of Sidon and Zahrani Municipalities told Hariri they will no longer accept landfilling rejected materials from Beirut, following the excessive accumulation of waste in the south. After the trash crisis reached its peak in 2015, Sidon agreed to take 250 tons of garbage a day from Beirut.
However, the plants there struggled to cope with the addition.
The most significant problem stemmed from non-recyclable materials, which have to be landfilled. These made up about 20 percent of the daily 250 tons of waste from Beirut and ended up forming mountains of garbage.
Hariri agreed that they will be redirected to the Costa Brava landfill. Sources from the Federation confirmed that trucks will start transporting 100 tons of rejected materials back to Beirut in the coming days.
South Lebanon Governor Mansour Daou also convinced 16 municipalities in the federation to sort more waste at the plant in Sidon. He further called on every municipality to prepare a waste disposal plan that is beneficial to the environment.