Response of H.E. Mr. Akram Chehayeb to Prof. Jad Chaaban’s Article on Waste
In accordance with best practices and Lebanese law, LCPS is publishing the following submission received from the office of H.E. Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb in response to an article authored by Dr. Jad Chabaan and posted by LCPS on 16 September 2016, titled “One Year On, Lebanon’s Waste Management Policies Still Stink”. LCPS firmly believes that sound policy-making results from open dialogue between decision makers and the wider public. It is our hope that the current government and future governments will be more proactive, as opposed to reactive, in releasing specific information about policy decisions it adopts. Additionally, it is imperative that this country’s leaders and the public consider the economic costs (specifically environmental and social costs), as opposed to the accounting costs, of such decisions. Lastly, LCPS would like to stress that while a plan has been enacted by the government to address the trash crisis, it is necessary to actively consider more sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches to waste management, specifically those which entail waste reduction and sorting at the source and a public campaign to encourage recycling.
Statement issued by Minister Akram Chehayeb
In response to the article published by the researcher and associate professor of economics at the American University of Beirut, Dr. Jad Chaaban, in September 2016, entitled “One Year On, Lebanon's Waste Management Policies Still Stink”.
The researcher and university professor, Dr. Jad Chaaban, published in September 2016 an article about the short-term (interim) plan for solid waste treatment in Beirut and Mount Lebanon (except Byblos). Since the article contained several fallacies, and in order to inform the public on the facts, and as mandated by the Government of Lebanon to follow up on the implementation of the interim plan, I would make the following clarifications:
First: the general context of the article
Professor Chaaban, in his article, built on the hypothesis that the solid waste file was previously, and still is a corruption and political quotas’ file without providing any evidence of that; knowing that several parties filed lawsuits to the Lebanese judiciary on topics related to the management of this file and investigations are still ongoing. Therefore, no one should set himself lawyer or judge and throw unsubstantiated accusations before the conclusion of the investigations and the issuance of the verdicts. It was also clear to us that the goal of the author in the article was to prove that the cost of the management of this file has increased from the previous stage, in order to serve the orientation set by him in advance, and which is the claim of political quotas and corruption. Professor Chaaban used the numbers and costs in a random manner to further his implicit objectives; and this approach is not worthy of an economist and university professor.
Second: the misinformation
- The author of the article neglected, intentionally or inadvertently, an important stage in the chronological context to manage the file. He pointed out to the tenders that were canceled, and then to the attempt of shipping the waste abroad, up to what he called the “Shehayyeb Plan” in March 2016 (the landfill of Ghadir and the landfill of Bourj Hammoud/Jdeideh). As for the stage that he omitted, and which is the most important, it is the plan actually known by the “Shehayyeb Plan” that was approved by the Council of Ministers on 09.09.2015, after the minister Shehayyeb formed a technical team to develop a plan in two simultaneous phases:
1. A sustainable phase based on the complete decentralization of the management of the file.
2. A transitional phase (maximum of 18 months) based on the management of the file by the central government in preparation to the sustainable phase.
To be noted that this plan has won the approval of all the political forces and the greater part of the civil and environmental societies, despite the objection of the politicized fraction of the civil movement on some aspects of the transitional phase. Failing the proposed plan, the actual "Shehayyeb Plan”, and laying the proposal of ‘shipping the waste abroad’ on the dialogue table in order to escape the implementation of the “Shehayyeb Plan”, has led to drowning in the maze of ‘shipping the waste abroad’. As responsible for managing the solid waste file, I was not convinced of the feasibility of this proposal and I have declared it repeatedly in the media.
- As to what the author of the article considered the “Shehayyeb Plan”, it is what was approved by the Council of Ministers in March 2016, based on a political consensus among the parties concerned in the Ghadir and Bourj Hammoud/Jdeideh locations; it was the culmination of the impasse reached by the political forces as a result of failure and rejection of any previous proposals.
- The author of the article mentioned that for the tenders launched, no bids were submitted for the regions of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, while only one offer was received for each of the south, north, and Bekaa regions. This information is completely false and the writer can refer to the press conference held by the Minister of Environment Mohamed Al Mashnouk, where he announced the results of the tenders in all regions of which Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
- The author of the article mentioned that four municipalities will benefit from the incentives, while the Council of Ministers decision No 1 date 17 March 2016, stated that four municipalities will benefit in addition to the service zones in the Chouf and Aley.
Third: the numbers contained in the article
The author of the article tried to prove that the cost of the transitional plan for a period of 4 years exceeds the numbers that were in use in the past. We will show in numbers that what was mentioned in the article lacks accuracy and methodology. But first, it is necessary to shed light on the following key points:
- How could the author calculate the total cost of the plan over four years knowing that important parts of it have not yet been contracted, and which relates to the tenders of waste collection and transport?
- In order to “inflate” the cost of the plan, the author deliberately calculated the incentives promised to the municipalities whether in cash or in public service projects, whereas he has not calculated the incentives that were awarded in the past, whether in cash as per law or public service projects such as the production of electricity from the gas generated at the Naameh landfill. Knowing that these incentives will be used by the municipalities in development projects and public services that are not related to the waste management service.
- While calculating the cost of the previous plan, the author omitted to calculate the cost of land acquisition of the Naameh landfill that was paid by the Lebanese government, whereas he has included in the current plan the cost of activities that have no connection to waste management, such as the rehabilitation of the Bourj Hammoud dumpsite, which is a project that were to be executed with or without the existence of a new landfill nearby, and these works were originally accounted for within the “Linord” project which was approved through decrees currently under execution.
- The author has not clarified how he reached to a total of 525 million U.S. Dollars for the cost of the four year plan! Unless we consider that he has added the 210 million U.S. Dollars incentives to the municipalities specified in the council of ministers decision number 1 date 17 March 2016 to the cost of the projects already contracted and estimating the cost of the projects under contracting. This kind of calculation presents a big fallacy as the incentives, even if they were awarded over the period of four years, they should not be calculated as part of the waste management cost.
- The author has priced the construction and operation of the Bourj Hammoud/Jdeideh landfill at a cost of 77 million U.S. Dollars, whereas the actual cost is 100 million U.S. Dollars.
Back to the accurate numbers, we will clarify to the author of the article and to the public the real cost of the four-year-plan:
- Construction and Operation of the Ghadir landfill (over four years), 53.2 million USD
- Construction and Operation of the Bourj Hammoud/Jdeideh landfill (over four years), 99.6 million USD
- Operation and Maintenance of the sorting and treatment plants (over four years) including upgrading of Coral capacity to accommodate 750 tons instead of 300 tons of wastes per day, 73.6 million USD
- Estimating the cost of Collection and Transport (over four years), 120 million USD
- Transport and Treatment of 250 tons/day of Beirut waste in the Saida facilities (over four years), 40 million USD
- Estimating the cost of including the Chouf and parts of Aley in the plan (over four years), 30 million USD
Estimated cost of the plan over four years, 416.4 million USD
Noting that an amount of 65 million USD, attributed to the works of treating the trash/rubble mountain of Bourj/Hammoud/Jdeideh, in addition to the marine protection works related to it, must be deducted from the total cost of the Bourj Hammoud/Jdeideh project, since these activities do not form part of the waste management services. Hence, the total cost projected for the period of four years would become 351.4 million USD. It may reach up to 400 million USD at most, which averages to 100 USD/ton compared to 133 USD/ton in the previous phase.
This calculation confirms unequivocally the reduction of the cost of handling this file for the next four years, and confirms that the bids conducted were for the benefit of the Lebanese government in general and without the cost estimates that were previously made. The only exception was in the Ghadir landfill bid which was re-launched in view that the lowest price in the first bid exceeded the estimations.
In conclusion, I would like to remind that we were the first to propose a fully integrated plan based on decentralization and shifting the responsibility of waste management to the local authorities whether municipalities, unions of municipalities, or service areas. We are in no way responsible for putting the spokes in the wheels of this plan that we proposed with full conviction, and we will continue our best to reach this goal no matter the false accusations based on demagoguery that dragged us to what we are in today.