Dirty Deal: Sierra Leone Civilians Say NO To Lebanese Garbage Imports

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 If the Lebanese Do Not Want Their Trash In Their Landfills, Why Should Sierra Leoneans?

As the Lebanon garbage crisis worsened authorities were forced to shut down the famous Naameh dump site in Beirut after residents took to the streets in protest. With original capacity to hold 2 million tons of trash, Naameh had received over 15 million tons before it was shut down.

After plans by the Lebanese government to find new landfill sites drags on, trash piled up in the streets of Beirut and the surrounding.

An attempt to temporarily reopen the Naameh dump site for the disposal of trash already accumulated in the streets was met with fierce resistance and protests by residents living around the landfill site.  According a Lebanese new paper, The Daily Star, several streets in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut turned into streams of garbage over the weekend as flood waters caused by heavy torrential rains washed through piles of trash accumulated over the last several months.

The streets of Lebanon are not the home to piles of trash. The main port in Beirut is currently home to reportedly several million tons of trash awaiting shipment. On January 9, 2016, the Lebanese newspaper As Safir broke the news that the Lebanese Foreign Ministry is in receipt of an acceptance letter from the Sierra Leone Government giving clearance for exportation of garbage to Sierra Leone. It was later discovered that the said acceptance letter was written by Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, the Special Adviser to the Sierra Leone President, Ernest Bai Koroma.

In a subsequent press release dated January 10, 2016, the office of the president disassociated the government form the action by the adviser and ordered an investigation.  While the adviser was later questioned by the Police, the outcome of that investigation is yet to be made public. The minister of Agriculture for the Government of Lebanon, Akram Shuhayyeb, who doubles as chair of the ministerial committee in charge of the waste management is said to have confirmed two weeks ago that “the exportation process is set to kick off within 25 days”. The minister is also quoted by The Daily Star as saying that “the initial signing of the contracts has been carried out by the government and the two companies after the firms paid the required assurance of $2.5 million (LL3,779,550,000) for each.”

Sierra Leone itself has its own fair share local trash crisis.  In the absence of a proper waste disposal management infrastructure, several landfill sites in and around the country’s main capital Freetown are left unattended and its communities infested. Reacting to the news about trash importation, many Sierra Leoneans find it beyond comprehension that anyone would even entertain the idea of dumping foreign waste in a country where many of its communities are buried under piles of waste already.

Mohamed Kamara, a Sierra Leonean native living in Maryland argued that if the government have capacity to process waste into fertilizers, they should first start with the piles we already have all over the country. He added that if the Lebanese do not want their trash in their landfills, how can anyone remotely think that Sierra Leoneans do want them in theirs?

The Basel Action Network (BAN), an international waste management watchdog has stated that any plan to export waste to Sierra Leone is illegal under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (the Basel Convention), a 1989 United Nations treaty to which Lebanon is a signatory. In addition, the African Union’s Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import Into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes Within Africa prohibits the importation of household waste into the entire continent of Africa from outside.

Sierra Leoneans within and outside of the country as well as a number of civil society and advocacy groups have vowed to resist any attempt by anyone to import trash into Sierra Leone. And many have continued to maintain a watchful eye on the related activities. 

Concerned Sierra Leoneans, USA, a Sierra Leonean public advocacy watchdog based in the United States has vowed to seek legal actions in international courts against the governments of Sierra Leone and Lebanon, as well as private companies involved should Lebanon trash end up in Sierra Leone.


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