BEIRUT—Eighty-five municipalities have so far been referred to the judiciary over garbage burning despite repeated warnings to end the dangerous and illegal practice, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Monday. “We had referred 74 municipalities to the judiciary...and today we added 11 more municipalities to the list, which was given to the State Prosecutor [Judge Samir Hammoud]. Our priority is to end garbage burning,” Abu Faour told a news conference at the Health Ministry after heading an emergency meeting over the country’s ongoing trash crisis.
“Whenever we approach the date of transferring our garbage abroad, we find an increase in trash burning,” the minister added, vowing that his ministry “will continue to uncover [the violations of] municipalities, factories and hospitals.”
Abu Faour contacted Judge Hammoud last month, asking him to take immediate legal action against violators.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk also issued warnings at the request of the Health Ministry in November, urging municipalities to stop burning trash due to its environmental and health risks.
Beirut and Mount Lebanon have suffered a chronic environmental crisis for six months since the state closed the infamous Naameh landfill on July 17 with no alternative.
Tons of trash have accumulated in municipalities, sometimes in hazardous locations.
Abu Faour condemned such actions, noting that trash was being dumped in rivers, including the Litani River, an important water source in east and south Lebanon.
He added that plans to look into the water sources of companies selling bottled water would continue.
The ministry recently began shutting down companies selling water unfit for consumption, as some have been found to be selling water containing human excrement, among other contaminants.
Three companies in south Lebanon’s Sidon were shut down last week for being unlicensed and not meeting health standards.
Photo: A group of recyclable garbage collectors push their cart past a pile of garbage burning on the side of a street on 7 December 2015 in Beirut. Source: AFP / Joseph Eid.