Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 5th, 2016

 

Lebanon holds breath for deal to export trash abroad

 Florence Massena. Posted February 1, 2016

It has been six months since Lebanon’s garbage crisis began in July, after the closure of the Naameh landfill and the end of the Lebanese state’s contract with Sukleen, the company in charge of transporting the garbage. Still no garbage treatment and storage solution has been found by the Chehayeb Commission, led by Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb since September to address the garbage piling up in the streets.

Instead, the Cabinet announced on Dec. 21 that Lebanon would export the garbage as a temporary solution. But since then, waste still lies in dumps and public fields everywhere in Lebanon, rotting on the ground and being swept about by the winter rains.

Although the Council for Development and Reconstruction announced Jan. 11 that Lebanon would export its waste over the next 18 months, nothing certain can be said right now about the details of the deal.

Nabil Abou Ghanem, adviser to the Agriculture Minister, told Al-Monitor, “The export of garbage is an alternative.” He added, “We found the solution of sending it away by boat because the municipalities and civil society refused the opening of new public landfills.” This measure doesn’t please everyone, and concerns remain regarding the nature of the deal, the cost of the entire process and the condition of the garbage that would be exported.

“The whole deal is quite blurry right now,” Ziad Abi Chaker, engineer and CEO of Cedar Environmental, told Al-Monitor. “I know for sure that maritime transport costs $125 per ton. And that is not the only cost; you have to add collection, transportation, sorting and wrapping of waste to a local facility, the transportation from this facility to the port, the loading on the ship, port fees and maritime transport fees. Also think of the unloading at the port of arrival and local port fees, as well as the transport and the gate fees of the local facility that would accept them,” Abi Chaker added.

According to his calculation, the whole process would cost between $250 and $300 per ton, whereas the Agriculture Ministry’s office communicated to Al-Monitor an estimate of $193 per ton. Abou Ghanem said, “Port fees are not going to be applied to waste; only transportation fees from the trucks to the ships, and it is the company exporting the garbage that will take care of it.”

He added, “The rest of the cost will be supported by the municipalities at the same cost they were paying for Sukleen’s services. In case of a general problem to finance this process, the government will find an alternative.”

Another issue remains at the heart of the waste being exported: will it be the new trash, still easy to sort, or the old piles still lingering from last summer and already decomposing? “The whole idea was to get rid of the old, to sort the new locally,” Abi Chaker pointed out. He added, “If the old [garbage] stays, it is an expensive measure that will be useless.

Plus, it depends of the destination. If a country takes the old, it means it is a place where the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is not applied.” It means that Lebanon might export toxic and dangerous garbage that could bring disease to another country.

Although the Agriculture Ministry declared that it was acting “according to the Basel Convention,” nothing is certain concerning the waste that would be exported, especially its destination. As-Safir reported Jan. 9 that it would be exported to Sierra Leone, but the African country denied this information soon after, creating a diplomatic incident with Lebanon, according to Abou Ghanem.

“We still don’t know where the garbage is going,” he said, adding that “45-day-old and less waste will be sorted out locally. The French company Coral will do it in Beirut, but we still don’t know what to do about the older waste, including the waste that has been burnt. A French company and the British company Chinook will try to solve this issue.”

Chinook is the final company chosen by the Lebanese government after six international companies bid on the project, including the Dutch company Howa. Al-Monitor called both companies, but they refused to comment about the deal. Howa said it is not in the running.

On that matter, Abou Ghanem said, “We asked the companies to give a deposit of $2.5 million each, which the government would [keep] if they did not fulfill their part of the contract. Howa did not agree that the government would touch their deposit.” He went on, “Chinook agreed to pay $5 million and that this money would be [kept] by the government in case of violation of the contract.”

The contract between Chinook and the Lebanese government is still not signed after the agreement was delayed twice in January. According to a report published by Magazine Jan. 22, a falsification by Howa is the cause of this current blockage. The company, the report alleges, provided a fake document stating that Sierra Leone had agreed to accept Lebanese waste.

The Agriculture Ministry has not confirmed this aspect of the prospective deal so far, but the head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, Nabil al-Jisr, confirmed Jan. 29 that Chinook had obtained Russia’s agreement to accept Lebanon’s trash, although no official comment was made from Russia.

But this 18-month solution would be a way for the government to push the municipalities to find their own solutions to treat their waste and reduce transportation costs. “Our goal is to have zero waste through better management of the issue,” Abou Ghanem said, adding, “We have to go through this crisis in order to start recycling … and use resources that could be obtained from the sorting of our garbage,” such as energy.

He declared that the Agriculture Ministry was already using organic waste to make compost, but that it had been sorted after being collected, leaving it contaminated and useless for this purpose. He is confident that within a few months, pure compost will be available for local farmers for free, if the deal is applied and sorting solutions are found.

Sebastian Castelier contributed to this article.

Almost All West Bank Land Deals for Illegal Settlements Forged

From straw men to cash-stuffed suitcases, new investigation reveals that 14 out 15 acquisitions by right wing firm of West Bank lands from Palestinians were forged.

In recent years, whenever the state sought to evacuate illegal outposts in the Binyamin region, Al-Watan officials would announce that they had bought the local lands from their Palestinian owners. The documents often turned out to be forged.

A police investigation that was opened in the case ended, and the case was transferred to the state prosecutor. The police did not interrogate Hever, but by questioning a chain of straw men it emerged that 14 of the 15 supposed deals were forged.

An investigative report by Raviv Drucker documents two Palestinians who acted as straw men for Al-Watan.

The straw men would buy the lands from people using forged documents purpoting to be those of the real landowners (many of whom are no longer alive) and then transfer them to Amana in a fake deal.

One of them, Akram, said to the camera, “I signed on many plots and lands.” Referring to the land upon which the outpost of Amona was established he said: “I signed in Silwad,” he said, referring to a West Bank Palestinian town northeast of Ramallah. “They told me there is land with such and such a number, and another plot with number… sign. I signed so many times for many lands. I made five or six deals.”

He added: “I told them I am signing for all the Palestinians, but let me live in Israel because of my children. My children are in Israel, and I don’t see them, and I am always entering Israel and going to jail because I have no permit, and I tell them in the investigation that I am threatened. I have a problem in the Palestinian Authority, and I am threatened unless you let me live in Israel. I sold [land] because they would help me, and no one is helping me. I am suffering from complexes now.”

Straw men, cash suitcases

The two straw men attest that at the signing, an Israeli lawyer from Jerusalem, who was investigated in the case and who name is barred from publication under a gag order, handed them a suitcase with half a million shekels ($126,400).

When they go outside, the lawyer takes the suitcase back. The goal is to fake a deal. Mohammed, one of the straw men who was interviewed, said that he sat with the lawyer in a restaurant, and afterwards went up to his office.

“He told me that this man’s friend cannot put the land under his name because of the Income Tax Authority,” he explained. “I signed on the papers and afterward he gave me a suitcase full of money and told me, ‘Take this.’ When I went downstairs, he took the money back and told me, ‘Take, this is what you get.’ That’s all.”

The investigative report documents attorney Eytan Lehman meeting with Akram at a gas station after he learned that Akram was speaking with Drucker, and instructs him to call him and tell him that he does not remember anything, without realizing that he was being recorded.

“The question is if you can have the conversation with him,” he said in the recording. “Tell him [Druker] perhaps I no longer remember he story blah blah blah, and then he will tell you: ‘but don’t worry, I know the whole story.’ Tell him what does he mean ‘know the whole story,’ for you don’t remember what I said to the police or something like that … Try to get it out of him without him understanding.”

Hever responded by saying he does not have knowledge of the report’s content.

Al Watan responded to the report, saying all of their land deals were done legally.


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