BEIRUT, Dec 22 – Lebanon’s cabinet on Monday agreed to export the country’s waste in a move that could end a crisis that led to a wave of protests and threatened the downfall of the government.
The government has awarded two foreign companies 18 month contracts to transport Lebanon’s waste by sea in a plan that should start to be carried out this month when the firms complete agreed financial obligations.
Prime Minister Tamam Salam had previously expressed frustration at the failings of his cabinet, which struggled to resolve the garbage problem after the closure of Beirut’s main rubbish tip in July.
“This was a catastrophe that was a result of years and years of neglect,” Salam said on Monday after a cabinet meeting convened to discuss the problem.
He had threatened to resign as protests calling for a solution to the rubbish crisis turned into calls for the cabinet to step down.
“We hope to have closed this chapter of an affair in the shadow of disruptions the country has endured and in the context of a tense political situation,” Salam said at a press conference.
The protests that began this summer had been organized independently of the main sectarian parties, posing a challenge to their influence.
The rubbish crisis echoes wider problems facing Lebanon.
The weak state has long been criticized for failing to develop the country and its infrastructure. Beirut still suffers daily power cuts 25 years after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
But government has been particularly poor since the eruption of the war in neighboring Syria. That war has worsened Lebanon’s political divisions, often along sectarian lines that reflect the Syrian conflict.