Gemayel blasts Bourj Hammoud landfill
BEIRUT: Kataeb party Chief MP Sami Gemayel vowed Thursday to carry on the campaign against the government's plan to dump waste along the Metn coastline while calling on fellow Metn MPs to stand alongside him to halt what he described as an "expensive environmental disaster."
"As a Metn district MP, I call on my fellow MPs and other political parties to stand with us to address the inevitable disaster that this project will cause," Gemayel said during a news conference held in Saifi.
Gemayel used a slideshow to explain the waste management process, revealing that Sukleen has been sorting only 4 percent of the collected waste, according to a recent report issued by the Council for Development and Reconstruction. "This means that 96 percent of garbage will be dumped randomly, thus proving that these figures indicate that an alarming level of pollution will result from the Bourj Hammoud landfill," he said.
The Kataeb chief later broke down the details of his proposed waste management plan which entailed the decentralization of the trash sector across Lebanon by erecting waste treatment plants in every district across the country coordinated by municipal unions in every district with guidance from the Interior Ministry.
"Municipal unions in respective districts can erect waste sorting plants – such as the one in Bekfaya – which would cost approximately $4 million for each plant, rather than the $120 million Bourj Hammoud project, which would reflect negatively on the health of the landfill's 350 thousand neighboring inhabitants," he said.
Gemayel explained that the current Bourj Hammoud project would entail the construction of a three kilometer long sea barrier off the Metn coast which would spread from City Mall in Dora toward the Port of Beirut; after the sea barrier is complete, the water would be pushed out of the area to extend the size of the landfill which would increase its capacity to take in waste. "The dumping process will take five years; another 10 years will be needed to remove the toxic residues and gases which will spread across the vicinity putting at risk senior citizens as well as women and children," he added.
The MP also pointed out that according to Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, the government will reimburse all those who reside within a four-kilometer radius of the landfill, which Gemayel considers will be a huge burden on the government's coffers.
"These are the reasons behind the Kataeb party's decision to stand against this project before it escalates further and before construction of the sea barrier commences," Gemayel added.
Gemayel also voiced his belief that the Costa Brava landfill will be closed down soon due to its vicinity to Rafik Hariri International Airport which is reflecting negatively on the country's civil aviation by heating up the airport's tarmac at alarming rates.
"The increased temperature on the tarmac negatively affects aircraft, especially during takeoff and landing, as well as attract birds on airport grounds which would be dangerous for the facility as a whole," Public Works and Transport Minister stated earlier this year.
The Kataeb leader then fired back at Chehayeb who had previously accused the party of political outbidding, saying that he will not address the latter "in the same disrespectful way" he had used to attack the party.
"Why are you protesting against the establishment of a cement plant in Ain Dara while endorsing the Bourj Hammoud project? Why are you providing a political cover for those behind this project? And how can you, as a previous health minister, support such a detrimental scheme?" Gemayel asked, while turning his focus toward Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, questioning whether this project is compliant with health standards.
Gemayel reiterated his call to Metn lawmakers and various political factions to join the campaign against the landfill project, expressing readiness to cooperate with anyone to stop what he labeled as "shady deals."
"We will stay in the streets until further notice once an alternative option is devised. In addition, we are ready to take part in any solution better than the current one," the MP affirmed.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Kataeb party has been holding regular protests outside the Bourj Hammoud construction site in order to halt its operations. The rallies have extended to the point where the party has set up a tent outside the site's main entrance to block the workers from resuming construction.
Two days after the tent was erected, Kataeb protesters received information indicating that security forces have been instructed to forcibly end the sit-in. "Such an action will prompt us to expand our protest outside the landfill site," head of the Kataeb's northern Metn division, Michel Hraoui, warned Wednesday via Voice of Lebanon radio station.
Hraoui denied claims that garbage has piled up on the streets due to the Kataeb's protest, assuring that no one is preventing Sukleen trucks from accessing the lot where waste is being dumped.