SIDON, Lebanon: Sidon’s streets are trash-free, ending a crisis which had engulfed the city with putrid odors for almost a week. Garbage began amassing last Wednesday when employees of Sidon’s waste sorting plant blocked trucks’ entry to the facility in reaction to the nonpayment of wages.
About 450 workers at the plant in Siniq, south of Sidon, took action because they had not received their wages for over a year, due to a 13-month delay in the state’s payment to the plant for waste treatment in Sidon and surrounding areas.
The workers had demanded to receive their wages before Eid al-Adha, which began Sunday. Sources familiar with the issue told The Daily Star that the plant’s administration had managed to secure a bank loan to pay its employees part of their salaries Saturday, a day before Eid al-Adha.
By Tuesday morning, the rubbish was finally cleared up and the plant was back at full capacity. But for many residents, the garbage which piled up in some of Sidon’s poorest neighborhoods had already ruined the spirit of Eid.
“Wherever you walk, you bump into trash,” a resident named Umm Mohammad told The Daily Star Sunday as she walked with her children through the city. “Who will hold those responsible to account?”
Summer temperatures, which regularly rise above 30 degrees Celsius, did not make life any easier for the locals who complained that the detritus emitted putrid smells and attracted rats, mosquitos and other insects.
Sunday morning, young boys used up their plastic guns to shoot at the rodents and other creatures crawling over the garbage.
A girl who was playing on the swings near her house said that when she swung upward, she could see the piles of waste. The view from the swing showed a “terrible view,” she told The Daily Star.
The plant in Siniq is responsible for treating Sidon’s waste along with over 12 other municipalities in the Sidon and Zahrani Municipal Union. The state is over a year late in its payment to the facility and two years behind in paying for waste treatment in Jezzine.
Fingers have been pointed in light of the incident.
The plant’s administration, which spearheaded the protest, Friday described as an act of “neglect” the state’s failure to pay the plant.
However, Sidon Mayor Mohammad al-Saudi told The Daily Star that he felt the timing of the staff’s action was irresponsible.
Saudi criticized the decision to protest immediately before the Eid al-Adha holiday, when he said the plant would be unlikely to receive the necessary money.
He added that the employees had not notified the municipality that they were going on strike.
The mayor promised the workers that he would secure the remainder of their unpaid wages within two weeks. - Writing by Jacob Boswall