From left to right: Ziad Bakouny (moderator), Paul abi Rached, Patrick Richa, Alain Aoun, Roland Tomb, Gebrael Saliba
Amidst the garbage crisis that Lebanon has been facing for the last eight months, a conference entitled “أنا حصت, و إنت؟” was hosted by the USJ medical student union in collaboration with the club of The Third Voice for Lebanon at the USJ CIS.
The student union president Jad Attallah began the conference with an opening statement welcoming the speakers and the attendees during which a moment of silence was observed for the souls of the martyrs of the bombings, not only in Brussels, but also all over the world. This was followed by an introductory speech by a member of the club, Cyril Hanna, explaining the latter’s role and presenting the conference’s program.
The speakers at the conference were by order of appearance: Professor Roland Tomb (dean of the Faculty of Medicine at USJ), Doctor Gebrael Saliba (infectious diseases specialist at Hôtel-Dieu de France Hospital), Member of Parliament Alain Aoun (member of the change and reform bloc), Mr. Patrick Richa (deputy secretary general of the Kataeb party) and Mr. Paul Abi Rached (president of Lebanon Eco Movement).
Professor Roland Tomb began with a speech explaining the role of the medical body as citizens involved in the Lebanese society, the role of USJ in society as well as the importance of NGOs, among which The Third Voice for Lebanon, in the service of the country.
From a medical point of view, Dr. Saliba spoke about the consequences of the current crisis on the health of citizens, especially children. In fact, trash dumps rapidly transform into raw material ripe for the growth of germs which can then be transmitted to humans through air, water, animal vectors and insects. Landfills facilitate the extension of germs into groundwater, rivers and sea. Incinerators cause massive emissions of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, and other cancerous gazes such as methane which can lead to an increase in gastrointestinal, pancreatic and dermatological cancers. These gazes could also aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, which would be particularly damaging for children. Dr. Saliba ended his speech by insisting on the importance of prevention through the washing of fruits and vegetables and by vaccinating children as well as adults to provide partial protection against some of the diseases.
MP Alain Aoun started his speech by calling the state a failure because of corruption and lack of accountability. He then stated that there has been no effort to solve the garbage crisis since 2010 (date of the Sukleen contract renewal). He then stressed the need to create sorting and recycling plants on the basis of decentralization and emphasized that municipalities and private investment companies are essential in order to reach this goal. In his closing statement he promised that the free patriotic movement will fulfill their full duty in this file.
Mr. Patrick Richa stated that there is no intention on behalf of the government to resolve this problem and that this crisis is one of corruption. He went on to say that the only positive thing that has come out of this crisis is that it exposed the extent of corruption in the government. He mentioned that there are over 670 illegal landfills in Lebanon and that the solution resides in decentralization and the active involvement of municipalities. As for the Bikfaya plant, Mr. Richa explained that the Kataeb party based their decision on two governmental circulars, which allow independence from the central government for waste management.
Mr. Paul Abi Rached started his intervention by stating that he will address the political issues unlike the politicians at this conference who only talked about the environmental aspect. He first noted that back in 1995, when Sukleen’s contract went in action, the municipalities and environmental activists were put aside in the decision-making process. He reiterated the fact that the government is corrupt and that its ultimate goal is to set up 4 incinerators: in Zahrani, Jiyeh, Karantina and Deir Ammar. He then insisted that the solution is in creating sorting and recycling plants, which also creates job opportunities. In fact, in 6 months’ time, many recycling plants can be built all over Lebanon for only 50 million dollars. These plants can also transform materials into compost, and others into fuel, without the need to bury any trash. He went on to say that, contrarily to what the government has been propagating, the recycling plants in Karantina and Amrousiyeh are more than enough to handle the recycling needs of the Beirut area. He concluded his speech by calling on the authorities to build composting plants in Costa Brava and Burj Hammoud instead of landfills, saying that these two plants would be sufficient supplements to the current infrastructure in order to allow full management of waste in Lebanon.
The conference was concluded with a question and answer session in which one of the attendees asked MP Alain Aoun to name the people responsible for the current crisis. He replied that we cannot blame individuals and that these matters should be left to the judiciary powers. However, Mr. Richa stated that he had no problems naming the people responsible and notably blamed the minister of environment and the interior Minister (Nouhad & Mohammad Machnouk) for the current crisis, stating that they had not adequately fulfilled their duties. As for the landfill plan reached by the government, MP Aoun said that the free patriotic movement had only accepted the plan with reserve but that their objection alone was not enough, to which Mr. Richa replied that accepting the plan with reserve is not the same as objecting and that the Kataeb party was the only one to object.
Club La Troisième Voix pour le Liban - USJ