The Lebanese Rubbish Crisis, a road to instability?
Protests have erupted in Lebanon over the past 72 hours over the “rubbish collection” crisis. The protesters clashed with the Lebanese security forces with further protests most likely increasing in violence.
The protesters, mostly young and cross sectarian, clashed with the Lebanese security forces over the crisis in Lebanon, now widely known as the “rubbish collection” crisis.
The Lebanese population has grown tired and disillusioned with the government’s ineffectiveness at dealing with the failure of the rubbish collection company to dispose of waste over the past six weeks.
The background of the crisis is the lack of a landfill site. With a mountainous, underdeveloped and overpopulated country such as Lebanon, finding a suitable landfill site is a challenge. However the challenge is far greater when you include the mix from Lebanon’s sectarian geography.
The company in charge of rubbish collection is Sunni, with ties to March 14 movement. The current main landfill site is located in a Druze area belonging to the Druze leader Walidd Jumblatt.
Waleed Junblat blocked the rubbish collection company from any further dumping at the site – citing environmental and health reasons – without giving the company any time to find alternative landfill site.
With Lebanon divided into small sectarian slices and each municipality refusing to accommodate any permanent or temporary site, it then became difficult for the rubbish collection company to dispose of the waste as it had nowhere to, as it had nowhere to put it anymore.
The accumulation of rubbish over 6 weeks in temperatures reaching 40 degrees, resulted in an unbearable stench in the air in Beirut and other major cities across Lebanon.
This has caused considerable anger among Lebanese citizens. It has also led to a much needed soul searching regarding the role of sectarianism in politics, as well as the effect of dividing Lebanon geographically and politically along sectarian lines.
But what are the implications of this seemingly small issue from a stability perspective? SecurityMiddleEast.com spoke to 5 Dimension Consultants who are regional geopolitical specialists. They expressed their worries with regard to continued stability within Lebanon. They said,
“As clashes between protesters and security forces continue, we believe that the protests could turn into a civil disobedience campaign across many departments and ministries, with daily life and business disrupted. All of this could happen against the backdrop of a continued deep political crisis, absence of any consensus on a president, (Lebanon has been without a president for 15 months), and a deepening sectarian problem due to the involvement of the Iranian backed Shia Hezbollah fighting against Sunni militants across the border in Syria. Given that 1 out 4 of Lebanon’s population is a Syrian refugee this could further confuse an already deeply complicated situation.”