Prime Minister Tammam Salam is beginning to seriously consider resignation if solutions to the garbage crisis reach a dead end, reported the al-Hayat daily on Sunday.
A ministerial source told the daily: “Salam will not remain an hour more in his position on Thursday if the garbage disposal plan of the Minister of Agriculture Akram Shehayyeb is not adopted.”
Speaker Nabih Berri had asked Salam to wait before taking any such step “because he is exerting efforts to overcome obstacles hindering the plan.”
He is also pressuring the premier against resigning in order to avert vacuum in the “executive authority in Lebanon.”
Media reports in recent weeks had been speculating that Salam would step down from his post following the ongoing failure to resolve the garbage disposal crisis that erupted following the closure of the Naameh landfill in July.
The government approved in September Shehayyeb’s trash plan that called for waste management to be turned over to municipalities in 18 months, the temporary expansion of two landfills and the reopening for seven days of the Naameh landfill south of Beirut.
However the implementation of the plan faced wide rejections of residents and municipalities from outside the capital who refuse to receive the trash other than those of their regions.
Obstructers to be exposed
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour warned Sunday that the arrival of the rain season will further exacerbate the health risks of the garbage crisis’ . He warned that Shehayyeb will “expose” obstructors if his emergency waste management plan does not get underway soon.
“Minister Shehayyeb will conduct a final round of deliberations and he will expose facts if the plan does not get implemented soon,” Abu Faour said.
“We have reached the disaster that we had long warned about and the health risks have increased, especially in the long term, due to the expected precipitation,” the minister cautioned, stressing that “the priority is for re-collecting the trash that was scattered” by Sunday’s heavy rains.
Abou Faour also noted that his ministry will have to carry out a lot of measures to “avoid the worse,” warning of the “health and environmental hazards” and “the impact on water and crops.”
River of garbage
Earlier in the day, heavy rains caused floodwaters to mix with the mountains of uncollected garbage, raising public health concerns. There are fears the uncollected waste and the rain season could spread diseases such as cholera among the population.
Activists from the You Stink movement, which has been leading the protests against the government over the garbage crisis , shared videos on their Facebook page of plastic trash bags and other garbage floating down a narrow street lined with cars.
The Beirut River, where garbage had been piling up on the banks for months, resembled an open sewer. Activists from You Stink braved rain and volunteered to help clean it on Sunday, which could revive the anti-government campaign in the country.