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JBEIL: The first solid-waste treatment plant to serve an entire qada will become operational at the end of 2005 in Jbeil, ending a two-decade-long practice which saw untreated waste regularly dumped in the Hbeline Valley.
The 3,500-square meter facility will dynamically compost and recycle 98 percent of the solid waste generated by the residents of Jbeil's 85 towns and villages - a population estimated at between 150,000 to 170,000 people.
"We are witnessing the start of an important step for the treatment of solid waste in the qada ... a culmination of efforts of the USAID, the Federation of Jbeil Municipalities and the Pontifical Mission," said US Ambassador to Lebanon Vincent Battle during the introduction of the project in Jbeil Friday.
The Jbeil qada has long suffered from the absence of a solid-waste treatment facility.
"This plant will be the first project on such a large scale in Lebanon serving a whole qada, and will initiate the closure of the dumpsite by stopping all landfilling activities," said Ziad Abichaker, president of Cedar Environmental, the firm that will build and manage the plant.
Two years ago, the World Bank, in collaboration with the Council for Development and Reconstruction, offered the Federation of Jbeil Municipalities a $5 million loan to establish a formal landfill in the Hbeline valley.
But the loan was rejected, at least in part because non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local environmental groups said the project would only add to the area's pollution.
Battle said the recycling and composting plant should serve as an example to other qadas for treating their solid waste.
But some residents and local representatives expressed concern that the project may attract the solid waste of surrounding qadas, turning the new plant into yet another "dumping site."
"You (those concerned with the project) should be aware not to turn the treatment plant into one serving other qadas," said Jbeil MP Fares Soueid, who attended the event along with the two other Jbeil MPs, Abbas Hashem and Nazem Khoury.
NGOs have also expressed caution about treatment-plant efforts in the wake of scandals involving the Naameh and Bourj Hammoud landfills, where residents were promised treatment plants but ended up with what amounted to free-for-all dumps.
"Some here are still worried about the project. Others accused the Federation of Jbeil Municipalities of being politicized. To those we say the federation's project will serve all the qada residents," Khoury said.
Abichaker, meanwhile, said the project would not harm the area's environment. "There will be no smoke, no incinerators, no bad odors and no untreated solid waste," he said.
He then showed off a model of the project to the audience, demonstrating how the plant would treat 80 tons of solid waste a day, and how a sorter will recover certain materials.
"This project will be unique in its capability of recycling nylon bags instead of sending them to the landfill," he said.
Recovered materials will be recycled and sold on the market, said Issam Bechara, managing director for the Middle Eastern operation of the Pontifical Mission, a Vatican agency that has operated in Lebanon since 1949.
For the whole effort to succeed, Abichaker said, residents and local organizations will have to pitch in by separating solid waste at the source, an effort that would substantially ease treatment management.
The entire project is expected to cost $2.3 million, financed by a $1.2 million contribution from the USAID and a $1.1 million contribution from the Federation of Jbeil Municipalities.
Approximately 18 employees will be employed at the plant by the time it is fully operational.
As for the Hbeline Valley, the hope is that a substantial portion of the untreated waste lying in the dumpsite will be removed and treated by the new plant.