How To Handle The Disgusting Smell and Mosquitoes Overtaking Beirut

Pic via Mawtoura.

Pic via Mawtoura.

Here it unfolds, the worst chapter in the non-ending story of the Lebanese garbage crisis. Don’t be fooled, the crisis is far from over. The governmental “solution” is so short-sighted and non-sensical that the crisis is bound to be repeated if not in 60 days, then in a few months or years. This is how we do things in this country: we put band-aids on gaping wounds, without making sure that the wound itself has actually been stabilized enough to be managed with band-aids; we do makeup coverups for problems that need hardcore fixes.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies how short-sighted and lala-landish our government is than the Minister of Environment tweeting (then deleting) a few days ago that the wave of mosquitoes and flies the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory is due to nothing other than the heat. He then subsequently blocked everyone who told him off or otherwise.

Mohammad Machnouk tweet

Ignore the fact that our Minister of Environment’s credentials don’t come anywhere near the science of the environment, and ignore the fact that we’re not actually experiencing waves of heat that could bring this much mosquitoes to our cities, what remains is a minister in a government that is trying to repeatedly fool you: the mosquitoes are due to the garbage, not just the weather.

As they stacked up the garbage in various locations around Beirut over the past several months, from Karantina to the Beirut River, the organic matter in that garbage underwent fermentation and decomposition leading to a wide array of toxins and bacteria. For months, those toxic materials were just lying there, unperturbed. However, the moment those poor garbage handlers started removing it, the chemicals were “freed” allowing them to move up to the Beiruti atmosphere and give you the absolutely horrible smell that feels inescapable.

The smell will remain there as long as they’re removing the garbage. The more time they take, the more we’ll have to endure, so let’s hope the poor fellows handling it physically can sustain the effort it takes before temperatures become higher and work conditions become too horrifying for the to manage.

Many people have reported unable to prevent vomiting many times a day because of the stench. Some have reported feeling ashamed of not being unable to vomit in public. I tell those people, your vomit is more honorable than the faces of those in governance who have inflicted this upon us. Wear it – not literally – like a badge of honor. If you’re having multiple episodes of vomiting, however, make sure to stay hydrated. Use anti-emetics, like primperan or motilium, to try and prevent such episodes as much as you can.

The disgusting smell has the worst ramifications on those with already present pulmonary disease. If you’re asthmatic or have an underlying lung illness and are feeling more out of breath than usual, consult your pulmonologist on adjusting your inhaler dose.

But what can be done about the smell and the mosquitoes and flies other than essentially sucking it up? We have to make sure our homes are safe for us and our children.

The mosquitoes and flies are a huge problem because 1) they exist in huge amounts, 2) they are caused by the garbage crisis, 3) they carry toxins with them as they travel, 4) they might carry infectious vectors from one person to the next and 5) they will bite.

So here’s a step by step process over how to handle things to the best of your capacity.

  1. Use face masks while going out if the smell is too much for you to handle. They’re present at most pharmacies and will help to a certain point.
  2. Before leaving your house, close the windows and doors to make sure mosquitoes and flies don’t welcome you back home. You can also use low dose insecticide, which will dissipate over the day, to keep the house free of the pests.
  3. Make sure to have cleansing hand gel with you at all times. Use it abundantly.
  4. If you or your children are bitten by a mosquito or flies, many of which are specific to this kind of fermentation process, clean the bite with a little bit of antiseptic, which will help in relief and cleaning.
  5. You can also use antiseptic sprays around the house. Those are a bit expensive, but there’s a cheaper DIY method that Ziad Abi Chaker shared on Facebook yesterday, consisting of mixing mouthwash with equal parts of water (1 cup mouthwash to 1 cup of water), putting the combo in a spray bottle and spraying the house.
  6. Maintain proper hygiene, not only of yourself but also of your house. The cleaner it is, the safer it is for yourself and your family.
  7. Every time a wave of nausea hits you or a mosquito/fly bites you, curse the hell out of this country and its government for making you go through this.

While our politicians live in lala-land and pretend that the only thing happening in Beirut is basically #Live and #Love, we are dealing with things that no civilized country has to ever deal with. Except the only notion of civility we have is what we propagate to those poor tourists to whom we now have to find an explanation as to why it just smells so bad in the city they’ve been duped to visit. If only odors can be carried over to Instagram posts.

I can’t believe it’s the year 2016 and we are discussing the ways to handle a putrid smell taking over our capital. What will be equally horrifying is the fact that the people in Nehme and other areas in the country where landfills reined supreme had to deal with such things for an extended period of time while no one cared. There’s a reason those people protested the landfill in their area, closed roads leading to it and refused to receive garbage in it again, only to be faced with army men and tanks forcing them to open it up.

In a short period, when the Burj Hammoud landfill opens up, this smell and everything that comes with it will become customary for Beirut. Keep that in mind.

 

Advertisements

When Lebanon’s Trash Becomes International, But We Are Too Busy Kissing Saudi Arabia’s Ass

Don’t call it brain dead.

Congrats Lebanon, we have made the international news cycle once more, the first time this year and hopefully the first of many.

No, it wasn’t about that viral Facebook fake-pictures-filled post proclaiming the beauty of God’s gift to Earth. I can hear your hearts break all the way here.

What made us international is actually old news to us. It’s so old in fact that not only does nobody care anymore, but the hype surrounding the issue has disappeared with each vanishing garbage bag stashed away in one of Lebanon’s valleys or on random roads, snaking around curves like white rancid rivers. Out of sight, out of mind – Lebanon style.


There is a bright side to the ordeal, however. Even our garbage bags look nice. They’re white, snow-like, built into winding rivers or towering pyramids.

Say hi to Buzzfeed.

Say thank you to CNN.

Wait for the upcoming onslaught from other outlets as well in the next few days. We are making it big. Aren’t we all proud?

Except, of course, this is *obviously* not the image of the country:

img_2545

I mean it’s always someone else’s fault, never ours collectively.

Putting lipstick on a dead pig level: Lebanon.

Is anything happening regarding the garbage crisis? Not really. Our government is busy doing other things, or just one thing to be exact: kiss Saudi Arabia’s ass like no country has missed another country’s ass before.

This past week, our government convened for SEVEN straight hours to discuss one item on their agenda: how to formulate a paragraph to please Saudi Arabia in order not to face their wrath manifesting in them not giving us money anymore, beggars-style.

I don’t think our government has convened for a total of 7 hours discussing the garbage crisis, or any other Lebanese crisis for that matter, over the last several months.

Live Love Saudi Arabia.

This past week, Saad Hariri decided to launch a petition across the country in order to show Saudi Arabia that Lebanon loved it so, akin to our country giving them a big fat political blowjob.

No politician cared enough to act about the garbage crisis, or any other crisis, since it started. Have we ever had a “Loyalty to Lebanon” petition circle around the country before?

Live Love Saudi Arabia.

This past week, minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi quit to protest the Lebanese stance towards Saudi Arabia’s recent embassy attack, first and foremost, and to a lesser extent protest the handling of Michel Samaha’s case. It took their reference country being seemingly offended for some ministers to resign.
Months after the garbage piled up on our streets, months after protests of hundreds of thousands… No other minister resigned or was even fazed by the notion of needing to resign.
This past week, Lebanese politicians of all kinds of kinds had something to say about Saudi Arabia. Even those that opposed KSA politically were at loss about what to do.
This amount of political maneuvering has not occurred not only with the garbage crisis, but with out presidential vacuum issue as well.

Live Love Saudi Arabia.

There comes a point where an entire country begging for absolution from another entity for the sake of money, for the sake of empty Arabism, for the sake of useless politics when that country’s capital is drowning in trash becomes not only humiliating but also insulting.

This is where we are today: a country sinking in garbage, but whose priority is how low it can go to its knees. But please, by a all means, don’t call it brain dead.

Let’s keep loving Saudi Arabia.

How Rain Will Make Lebanon’s Garbage Crisis Much, Much Worse

Beirut River

The political aspect of Lebanon’s Garbage Crisis has been discussed extensively. The protests around the issue and their underwritten goals have also been discussed extensively. What hasn’t been talked about in the media, however, is how this garbage crisis in Greater Beirut is affecting our health and how the first bouts of rain, set to come within the next few weeks if we go by Lebanon’s standards, will exacerbate this crisis into a full blown health crisis as well.

To be honest, this isn’t something I learned in medical school. We don’t have courses about garbage-crisis-related-health-issues. This is very short-sighted, I know.

So with a little help from my Infectious Diseases specialist-to-be friend Tala Ballouz, a little research was done and we’ve come up with the following.

So the Greater Beirut area today is essentially a very urban area that has its garbage being deposited basically everywhere. With rainfall that runs on this garbage, many of the extracts in our garbage will become dissolved and suspended in the rain, forming a liquid called leachate.

So what is leachate made of? Let’s list them.

  1. Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria (where is Abou Faour when you need him?),
  2. High concentrations of total dissolved solids, ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, chloride, calcium, potassium, sulfate, and iron,
  3. Numerous heavy metals such as zinc, mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel,
  4. Organic trace constituents: byproducts of decomposing solvents, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls, a highly toxic environmental pollutant.
  5. High numbers of fecal bacteria.

Leachate occurs over landfills, dumps and essentially wherever garbage exists. In developed countries, their high level waste management systems prevent this substance from being anything worthwhile. Developing countries, however, don’t have it as easy.

How about if that developing country was a country like ours in our own garbage situation that consists of: 1) garbage being present on streets, next to rivers, next to the sea and on land where it shouldn’t be, 2) that same garbage being unmanaged and untreated for over 57 days now which means its level of decomposition is in the stratosphere and 3) when even our rivers are blocked by it?

With the formation of leachate with Lebanon’s upcoming rain season, the toxic water will do the following:

  1. Infiltrate into the underground water reserves that we have. This will lead to highly toxic water for us to use in various industries, be it in agriculture or even personal use.
  2. The rain, coupled with the fumes of the garbage along with leachate, will form acid rain. This will affect aquatic life, Lebanon’s already-fragile infrastructure and whatever plants we have left.
  3. The consumption of products that are this polluted (indirectly) with this many toxins (check the list above) serves as a massive hub for carcinogens, substances that increase the risk of cancer.
  4. The Beirut River will have unnaturally high toxic levels (remember when it was red? this will be worse), that’s if it doesn’t overflow, sending waste and toxins into the homes of those living around it.
  5. Illnesses that are not endemic to Lebanon will start surfacing, notably cholera, a bacteria that thrives on infected water.

Other infectious problems we might have are the following:

  • Amoebiasis –> causes fever, abdominal discomfort, bloating, fever, weight loss.
  • Infections with various tapeworms –> cause a wide array of intestinal disturbance and could even have neurologic sequelae.
  • Echinococcosis –> causes liver cysts, and can cause anaphylactic shocks.
  • Various bacteria that are not only cholera (C. jejuni, E. Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Legionella) –> cause symptoms ranging from intestinal to pulmonary to neurologic symptoms.

As a country, we are not ready to handle many things, as is testament by the fact that our garbage has been on the streets for about two months. A health crisis due to this garbage crisis is also something that the country cannot remotely handle. The epidemics we can get are not fiction, but they are right around the corner.

What can you do?

Pressure your politicians to get the garbage off the streets… yesterday. And if not? Well, don’t drink the water.

North Lebanon Will NOT Be Turned Into Beirut’s Garbage Dump

In a stroke of pure “magic,” our politicians have “solved” the country’s garbage crisis. In the beginning there was Sukleen and the Nehmeh dump. Now, we have Sukleen again – yes, seriously – and the Nehmeh dump, in Beirut’s proximity, has been moved to a place that’s more than a hundred kilometers away from Beirut.

In a stroke of utter “genius,” the Lebanese government has decided that the Northern caza of Akkar will now be where the people of Beirut and its suburbs dump their garbage. In case you had your doubts before, be certain now: Lebanon does not have its areas equal. There’s Beirut and Mount Lebanon, a beacon of hope and love to the masses and the tourists and where all the money flows, and there are the peripheries, notably North Lebanon, where the only thing fitting is to give its people those other regions’ trash.

Sukleen will also be handling garbage again at the price of about $160/ton, that’s more than what they used to get paid before, and about 4 times the normal amount that any decent country in the world pays to handle garbage.

Akkar – The Real Tragedy:

Here’s how the situation is in Akkar today:

  • There are villages that got electricity for the FIRST time in 2013 (link).
  • There are villages that do NOT have road access yet. I remind you this is 2015.
  • The caza does NOT have any decent hospital in it. Its people have to make the trip to Tripoli to begin getting decent medical coverage, and a lot of them have to make the trip even further south to Beirut in order not to die.
  • The caza does NOT have any decent schools and universities. Its people have to make the trip to Tripoli as well or move to Beirut for better opportunities.
  • Akkar is the country’s poorest area on record, only paralleled in poverty by Tripoli’s Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen areas. The numbers are astronomical: 40% of the population is considered poor and more than 18% live below the extreme poverty line.
  • The “best” way for the people of Akkar to make a living is for its men to risk their lives volunteering in the army; hence, calling Akkar “the basin of the army.”

Why don’t you hear about any of this? Well, I’ve tried to highlight how horrendous the condition in my region (the North) is on many occasions, but when it’s that *far* for the people of Beirut, as is anything north of the Madfoun checkpoint, nobody cares.

Another aspect of why you don’t hear about this is because no one, even Akkar’s politicians, care. The only time they do give a rat’s ass is come election time, in order to give the starving population a loaf of bread, a few sandwiches and a couple hundred bucks to sustain them through the coming four years (or seven).

Well, now we have another reason to give Akkar a second glance, so let’s spin this positively: Lebanon’s politicians have FINALLY remembered Akkar other than at the time of elections. Hurray!

How so? Well, our government and politicians want to turn areas of Akkar into the garbage dump for Beirut and its Greater Area’s garbage. Obviously, because they say no other region in the country can work, but it’s because the people there are so poor they can’t fight the decision of the government to kill them before their own eyes.

The details of the Akkar deal are as follows:

Ahmad el Hariri met several weeks ago with Tarek El Marhebi, the son of former MP Talal el Marhebi, who agreed to give him a land of around 1.4 million squared meters, to which was added another property culminating in about 2 million squared meters of area, in order to create a garbage dump to solve Beirut’s garbage problem, in an area is called Srar.

The Ministry of Environmental Affairs then studied the land and came to the conclusion that the type of soil used was NOT compatible with that required to do a dump, risking the toxins of the garbage infiltrating down to the underground water, which supplies the many villages of the caza since the government has NOT supplied the area with water as it is.

The Future Movement figures involved the aforementioned deal “denied” such claims a few weeks back. Today, with the news of such a dump being closer to reality than anyone expended, the claims they denied are not only true, they’re becoming a reality.

How is the government trying to buy the silence of the people in Akkar in order to effectively kill them with the waste of a region that is more than a hundred kilometers away? 100 million USD will be used to fund select developmental projects in the caza over the course of the next three years, money that is Akkar’s right and for which it does NOT have to reciprocate with receiving Beirut’s garbage. And to make things worse, the area will probably never going to see that development anyway.

This is governance 001 for the Lebanese system that doesn’t seem to care for an area unless it’s called Beirut and Friends:

  1. No, it’s not acceptable to silence the people of that area with money that you haven’t used for years to give them their rightful development, money that is rightfully theirs,
  2. No, it’s not acceptable to risk the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people because you’re worried about the image that having your capital drown in garbage gives to the world,
  3. No, it’s not acceptable to risk the greenest region in the country’s environment because you’re too bloody corrupt to come up with a solution that limits your monetary return,
  4. No, it’s not acceptable and will not be accepted that Akkar ends up as Beirut’s garbage dump.

Akkar Isn’t The Only Northern Entity To Get Screwed:

If you thought Akkar was alone in getting screwed, you thought wrong. The entire North is under threat of being turned into Beirut’s waste disposal zone. Batroun’s areas of Hamat and Rasenhash have received a few shipments of garbage trucks from Beirut already. For reference, the area has your very lovable picturesque Nourieh convent.

Kefraya, in the Koura caza, also received a few garbage shipments, as did the city of Amioun before its people blocked roads and protested.

Tripoli is also having a true environmental disaster as it keeps getting shipments of Jounieh’s garbage, which are polluting its sea, soil and air. In the meantime, Jounieh’s mayor is bragging his city is the first to clear its garbage mess. How despicable.

North Pride:

I’m a son of the North. Batroun is my home. Koura is my home. Tripoli is my home. Akkar is my home. This is my land, and I will not have my land ruined, tarnished, maimed and irrevocably damaged just because I exist in a system that thinks I’m worthless for not having “Mount Lebanon” or “Beirut” stamped across my ID.

I’m a son of the North. My region is the country’s most forgotten, most ignored, most ridiculed and most stereotyped. My region is the country’s least developed and least considered (except when it’s for garbage it seems).

I’m a son of the North, and I will not have my home be filled with the garbage of those who not only couldn’t care less about it, but who will very likely not give a rat’s ass about where their garbage is heading the moment they don’t see it on their streets anymore.

I’m a son of the North and I say this: “Kell wa7ad yemsa7 kha*a b ido.” 

Why You Should Go To The #طلعت_ريحتكم Protest This Saturday

YouStink Protest 22 August - 1

The “YouStink” movement is the most important thing taking place in Lebanon today. It’s a movement of youth who are secular and critical and are trying to get this country to be better for everyone in it, even those who don’t want that.

Over the course of the past few weeks, YouStink started grassroots protests to try and involve a Lebanese street that essentially doesn’t care, even as the trash piles up outside its doors. Refer to the following pictures for more information:

You can also refer to this New York Times article for a bit of “bahdale.”

Also refer to this post about the state of trash of the country.

When I first wrote about the issue, I was convinced that the garbage crisis would be resolved as fast as it started because if there’s anything our politicians do and do really well it’s to put band-aids on gaping wounds. I was sure they’d find a way to gather around and make sure the issue was resolved as fast as possible.

I thought wrong.

A month later, not only has the garbage crisis not been resolved, but the horrifying details of how corrupt our entire institution is became more prominent than ever. Our politicians are so comfortable by the fact that whatever they do will fly by the masses that have learned to turn a blind eye to them that they couldn’t even manage to do the effort and pretend that they’re trying to address the issue at hand.

The cherry on top of the garbage mountains was the electricity and water situation also becoming catastrophic, as is the case every single summer.

Tomorrow, on August 22nd 2015, the YouStink movement is rallying in Downtown Beirut yet again to get the country’s voices heard, and this is why you should go:

1) Because they have a clear goal for you: They want to find a solution to the garbage crisis amid a political system that’s built on always ensuring that such crises are always sustainable. It’s that simple.

2) Because it’s not okay for our politicians to be this unchallenged: one month and the garbage is still on streets? Really?

3) Because some things are more important than happy hour at Mar Mkhayel on a Saturday: you can get your drinks afterwards.

4) Because even if you intend to leave, you can still help make the country a better place for those who want to stay: I don’t want to stay here; Lebanon is not where I envision my future to be, but I’ll be damned if I leave without at least knowing I tried.

5) Because our system is just not working: you can’t be okay with not having a president for a year, not voting for 2 years straight, not having any basic infrastructure, and living in garbage. It’s unacceptable to be okay with it all.

6) Because the country has police that beat up women who are expressing their fundamental right to speak: refer the following video:

7) Because even if the garbage crisis doesn’t affect you, the system has fucked you before: yes, the garbage crisis is a Greater Beirut problem, but Tripoli was under bullets for months and our government did nothing. The country has had terrorist attacks take place and the government did nothing; that is not okay.

8) Because not going is telling those governing you that they can get away with everything they do to you: now it’s elections and garbage, next it can be your other rights. If you stay silent now, why would they assume you can speak later?

9) Because this is not the time for apathy: you can’t not care about living in garbage, in a country on a slippery slope down anarchy, in a total disintegration of everything that makes a country a state.

10) Because our politicians are scared shitless: refer to the following link.

I rarely invite to protests, but tomorrow I will see you there.

How Lebanon Has Officially Hit Rock Bottom

Once upon a time, I used to be one of the people who gathered around and started to enumerate how proud they are to be Lebanese. Slowly but surely, I started to become disenchanted with the country; I started to see its flaws and how helpless and powerless I was to try and change anything. Soon enough, I saw no point in pride.

For a long time, I used to be called a pessimist for being such a person, a constantly negative reminder that people like me existed. After the past few days, Lebanon has not only hit an entirely new low for me, but many seem to have come to the realization, like I have a long time ago, that this country is hopeless and that pride has not set foot in this land.

Welcome to the club, and this is why you should join.

 

1) The Garbage Crisis:

It’s been more than 2 weeks that the garbage in Beirut has been piling up with no end in sight. The pictures and videos are aplenty. I’ve already seen patients in the ER whose chief complaint was how the odor of the garbage is affecting their health. The cabinet has met a total of 4 times so far, all of which were utterly in vain to try to fix the crisis, but they couldn’t.

The garbage problem is not that the Lebanese individual produces a lot of trash or that we don’t recycle, and the numbers don’t lie. It’s that this is a sector that, for years now, has been the money machine for Lebanese politicians to fill their pockets without any one noticing.

The garbage crisis has shown us that our politicians can’t even begin to handle our trash… and here they are tasked with handling more pressing issues facing the country. It has also shown that those same politicians who have been benefitting from our garbage’s tax money for years couldn’t, even as the trash piled up, to rise beyond the danger to their pockets and treat their citizens as people for once.

The average cost of a ton of garbage in Lebanon is $120. Contrast this with less than $20 in Egypt. Why? Because the remaining $100 has other uses.

Instead of searching for a radical fix, they tried to put a bandaid on a profusely bleeding wound by simply dumping Beirut’s garbage elsewhere, confirming what we all knew: non-Beiruti-Lebanese are lesser citizens who should be forced to live next to Beirut’s trash. The country of temporary solutions for critical crisis shines again.

Our politicians turned the country into nothing more than a garbage dump. We’ve become the laughing stock of the world in doing so, only this time it wasn’t Mia Khalife or Miss Lebanon’s fault, it was our own: we got beyond incompetent people in office, and we are reaping what we’ve sown.

Welcome to the republic of garbage.

2) Jumblat Turned The Garbage Sectarian:

 

Some headlines would have been “The Onion” material even back during the Civil War when Christians and Muslims were killing each other. This time around, one of the leading Lebanese politicians not only made our garbage sectarian, but he divided it according to confessional lines.

In a recent statement, PSP leader Walid Jumblat figured it would be a good idea to propose he handles the garbage of the Muslims while Christian leaders handle the garbage of the Christians affected by the crisis.

The sad part is his statement did not turn heads. The situation is that dire. I’m surprised the proposal didn’t include specific color codes for garbage bags that also worked according to sects. I mean, isn’t that the next logical step?

The country isn’t only run on sectarian ground; our politicians have also turned our trash sectarian. The sadder part? Someone who talks of garbage in sectarian terms is governing us.

Welcome to the land of segregation.

3) The Minister of Social Affairs Arrests A Protester… After Ignoring His Abuse Complaints For Years:

Tarek Mallah

Tarek el Mallah was an orphan who was abused for years at Lebanon’s Islamic orphanage. When he reached adulthood, Tarek filed for a lawsuit against the orphanage. Such serious abuse should not have happened if Lebanon had a decent Social Affairs ministry that actually cared for the well-being of the country children, or if that Social Affairs ministry fought for those children when they spoke up.

Following the lawsuit, the minister of Social Affairs Rachid Derbas tried to convince Tarek el Mallah to stop his pursuit for justice. Why? Because he was giving Sunnis a bad name, but Tarek wouldn’t have it.

So when Tarek was protesting in the “Tel3et Ri7etkon” movement, Rachid Derbas made sure he got arrested for “civil strife.”

Rachid Derbas abusing his title to try and tarnish the reputation of Lebanese citizens whose only fault was to speak up is not an unusual behavior for Lebanese politicians. It has been going on for years. The lesson from such a thing, one that we always need to remember is the following:

You, as a Lebanese citizen, don’t have rights. You are not allowed to fight for your rights, face politicians who think they own you because they happen to govern you, face the status quo and get away with it, because someone in power will always have power over you, even if they don’t. This is how things are.

Welcome to the land of injustice.

4) The Death of Georges El Rif & Rabih Kahil:

Rabih Kahil

A couple of weeks ago, Georges el Rif was stabbed in broad daylight, to the observation of many, in Gemmayzeh, by a Lebanese figure’s bodyguard… because that bodyguard cut him off in traffic (link). A few days ago, colonel Rabih Kahil, who fought last summer in Arsal, was killed because he was in an argument with someone over the phone and a passer-by was annoyed he was shouting, so he shot him three times.

No one is safe in this land of lawlessness. Everyone has a gun, or a knife, and a lot are willing to use their weapons, just because they can.

It’s sad to think that we live in a country where we all prone to have our names turned into a justice hashtag. But what can you do when you live here?

Welcome to the jungle.

5) No President and No Parliament:

POTLR

I’m sure you’ve forgotten by now, but amid the garbage, people getting shot and stabbed or arrested because ministers have a personal vendetta, the country has not had a president for exactly 432 days. That’s over one year and two months of the country’s head being vacant, ironically accurate given how the country actually is today.

Over the past 432 days, our parliament, which has been illegally working for over 775 days, failed to convene more than 25 times to vote for a president. I honestly lost count at 25.

Not only do those who represent us feel entitled to renew for themselves and rob us from our fundamental right to vote, but they also can’t manage to do their job, not that elections would have changed anything because we all know that our people would vote for the same lot all over again.

It says a lot when the country is this dysfunctional. It says even more when not having a president for over a year is… okay? Yet again, what can you expect from those who can’t handle garbage.

Welcome to the republic of non-republicanism.

6) ISIS Still Has Our Soldiers:

As we’ve all forgotten the president, or lack thereof, this is a friendly reminder that ISIS still has several of our soldiers detained somewhere we don’t know, and that the government has essentially given up on bringing them back.

ISIS killed our soldiers on several occasions, and we utterly failed every single time.

Welcome to the republic of disgrace.

7) The Status Quo Will Live On:

If you think the current state of the country has gotten people to open their eyes, you’re deeply mistaken. Apart from the minority taking it to the streets to call on our political class to resign, the vast majority still puts sect before country and before their basic human rights.

Lebanese Christians today are haunted by the need to fight for their “Christian” rights, foregoing the notion that their rights as people are synonymous with the rights of everyone else in the country and that fighting for rights should be across the board.

Lebanese Muslims today are too dependent on their two or three leaders to actually rise beyond being anything more than followers who do as they are told, who vote as they are instructed and who can’t complain for fear of breaking order.

In the land of apathy, of utter and sheer dependence, the vicious cycle will forever live on.

Conclusion:

If you’re still reading, good on you. Here’s a sticker.

 

 

 

Forget about the glories of Gebran, because I don’t care about his book.

Forget about Carlos Selim Helu being originally Lebanese, because I don’t care about his money.

Forget about this or that Lebanese doing something impressive abroad, because in the grand scheme of things, they are irrelevant to you.

Forget about hummus. Forget about tabbouleh. Forget about Beirut and our parties.

What matters is not that some Lebanese wrote a book that became a worldwide hit.

What matters is how this country of ours is treating us as people and how it sees our value as its citizens.

It’s easy to say that Lebanese politicians are ruining us, but they do not exist in void: they are of us, emanating from our values and from our votes.

It’s easy to say that the current state of the country is not “my” fault, but it sure is ours.

There’s nothing sadder than to feel so disenchanted by one’s country that your existence in it becomes nauseating, except this time the stench is real.

 

 

When Lebanon Drowns In Garbage… Again

Lebanon Garbage Problem

If there’s one quality that can apply to Lebanese society and our form of governance, it’s that we always reactive rather than proactive, which is to say we never face a crisis looming on the horizon by driving off the road leading to it; we just continue driving until we fall off the cliff… and then we start searching for ways to build a parachute in the free fall.

This applies to so many things in the country: from presidential elections, to parliamentary elections, to the current garbage status. I can’t even believe we are discussing garbage, but here we are.

At a time when Sweden ran out of garbage and is looking to import some to produce energy (link), Lebanon will soon start piling up its garbage on the streets of Beirut and its other cities, because we have no place to dispose of them.

 

As a reminder, this was how things were last year:

The problem back then had one aspect: the residents of the country’s main landfill, Naameh, cut off the roads leading to the dump to protest the toxic effect of having such a facility close to where they lived: the place was supposed to be a temporary landfill for 6 years and hold a maximum of two million tons of waste; it has been in use for more than 17 and currently has more than 15 million tons.

Negotiations with residents at the time culminated in them stopping their protests and allowing Sukleen’s trucks to deposit garbage for a limited period of time – one that has now expired – as the government searches for other ways to address Lebanon’s garbage problem, which the government clearly did not do.

The problem today, however, is two-fold: the agreement with the residents of Naameh has run its course, and as such the roads to the Naameh landfill are closed once again. However, this time around, there isn’t anyone to collect the garbage in the first place because, as of July 17th, the government’s agreement with Sukleen had also expired. Hurray for efficiency.

As of now, you will see Sukleen employees sweeping the sidewalks, and picking up your dog poop if you live in Achrafieh, but they won’t be picking up your garbage. Brace yourself for the stench.

In numbers, this is Lebanon’s garbage status:

  • We produce 1.57 million tons of solid waste a year, with a 1.65% annual growth rate.
  • Per capita, we produce 1.1 tons of solid waste, this follows the regional average, but is far below that of developed countries (obviously).
  • 53 % of Lebanon’s solid waste goes to landfills.
  • 30 % is disposed in dumps.
  • 17 % is recycled or composted.

I don’t know how a government can be this clueless as to let this issue run its course twice in its lifetime, but they have. Not only is the country drowning in corruption, wastas and “you rub my back so I rub yours” mentalities, but you can now add literal garbage to the list… again.

This will not be fixed until some political hail Mary takes over and a band-aid is placed, once again. As I said, we don’t live in a country of a futuristic vision, but of temporary fixes. In a few days, when the sidewalks have garbage bags and not people, the outcry will prove deafening to our officials not to do anything. They will scramble to negotiate a new agreement with Sukleen. Then they will convince the residents of Naameh that the toxic fumes of 15 million tons of waste are not that bad, and we will pretend things are okay, until this repeats in a year or two or five.

Here are a few headlines on how to maybe address the issue from its core:

1 – Recycling:

In the short months that I lived in Lille and NYC, every single item of solid trash that I produced had to be sorted into different piles of trash, depending on whether that got recycled or whether it got composted. Papers went into one pile, cans went into another and the rest went into a dispenser.

Recycling will not only decrease the load that Lebanon’s landfills have to handle daily, but it will also make the country more environmentally conscious. The problem with this is that it needs a huge paradigm shift in how Lebanese look at their garbage. Will they do the effort to sort? I honestly doubt.

2 – Incinerators:

We have electricity issues. We also have garbage issues. Why not try to fix the former with the latter? Garbage incinerators that produce energy can help Lebanon’s ailing electricity sector.

The problem with the incinerators is that, when not properly maintained, they will produce immense levels of pollution and the maximum level at which they can handle waste is about 160 tons a day; for reference, the Naameh landfill, the country’s biggest, handles about 2800 tons a day.

The limited capacity of such incinerators means that many are required to have a dent in Lebanon’s garbage problem. The problem with them being as polluting as they are is that finding a location for them is probably harder than finding locations for new dumps or landfills. Moreover, we all know the government won’t bother making sure the incinerator plants are up to environmental qualifications.

3 – New Landfills:

I mean, really, why not? If recycling is too hard, and incinerators are too costly/polluting, then why not invest in new landfills in some remote, poorly-inhabited regions provided that such landfills be maintained and properly handled, which is to say that those landfills should not become lands filled with garbage, but rather lands where garbage is handled in environmental and scientifically decent ways, for a minute period of time, in a plan that spans several years in order not to fall into the same problem… again.

4 – Export It:

Instead of drowning in garbage, why not sell it? Sweden wants some. Norway wants some. I’m sure we can find an Arab country who’s willing to take it at a bargain. Why not just get rid of it? It’s not like we know what to do with it here.

5 – Tax It:

At a growth rate of 1.65% yearly, the garbage we produce will soon become too much for what we can handle anyway, even if temporary measures are placed. Why not have a tax on how much garbage a household can produce before they have to pay for the handling of whatever they’re producing? Such taxes can be made in such a way to fund environmentally friendly projects in the country.

Conclusion:

The country needs drastic measures to address the garbage issue. At a time when Sweden is importing trash because they’ve run out of it, it’s horrifying to think that a country such as Lebanon not only doesn’t have a place for its own trash, but literally has no idea how to handle it.

How many times should we drown in garbage before we learn that temporary fixes are not okay?

How many times should we drown in garbage before we learn that if those in power can’t handle our waste, then how can we entrust them with more pressing issues?

Welcome to the republic of garbage, taking it literally since 2014.