Lebanon has been rocked by #YouStink anti-government protests as waste piles up in the streets. Port works struck over the dumping of rubbish in the harbour.

Lebanon is in a state of political dysfunction that has manifested as a waste crisis. As rotting rubbish has piled up on the streets during the summer heatwave, protesters have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the government.

The Union of Beirut Port Employees  held a strike on 13 August after thousands of tons of rubbish was offloaded at the entrance to the port.

“We will not accept our port becoming the capital’s dumping ground”, said union president Bchara Asmar.

“The health of all who enter the port is at risk, workers, visitors and customers. We want the port authorities to talk to the union; we want to avoid further escalation to open-ended strike.”

Bchara Asmar

Bchara Asmar

There are also calls for the urgent removal of the current waste and scrapping of plans to make a permanent dump site in and around the port.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation is running a campaign calling on the Lebanese Government to stop using the port of Beirut as a dumping ground.

Police use water cannon on protesters in Beirut

Police use water cannon on protesters in Beirut

Anti-government protests, which have been building over the hot summer, erupted over the weekend as police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas on thousands of protesters who gathered in the streets of Beirut to demand the resignation of the government, tell politicians “You Stink!”

But the crisis is wider than waste management:

As journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin writes in a widely shared post on his Facebook page, Lebanon has been without a president for more than 460 days.

“It has absorbed almost 2 million Syrian refugees. For decades it has suffered widespread power outages. And last year, the very members of parliament tasked with tackling these problems extended their own terms until 2017, continuing to ignore calls for elections and real representation.

Protesters confront police in Beirut. Photo by Karim Mostafa (@TheKarimPhoto)

Protesters confront police in Beirut. Photo by Karim Mostafa (@TheKarimPhoto)

In September, when the mandate of the commander-in-chief expired, the minister of defense unilaterally extended the term by a year. Instead of appointing a new chief – as is too often the case in Lebanon – another band-aid was slapped on, procrastinating a problem, instead of solving it.

But Lebanon, like many of the protesters in the streets this weekend, is still bleeding. When thousands took to the streets this weekend to protest these indignities and raise their grievances, the government — infamous for failing to act – ironically, overreacted.

Riot police and soldiers deployed by the commander in chief used tear gas, bullets and batons on protesters, injuring dozens. Only adding to the irony, despite Lebanon’s widespread water shortages, police also used water cannons to disperse the protesters.

Protesters pour into Beirut demanding government resignation: Photo by Saulo Corona

Protesters pour into Beirut demanding government resignation: Photo by Saulo Corona

But there is reason for hope. The public, which has become rightfully and notoriously apathetic to the cycle of government paralysis, political bickering and factional infighting, has reached a breaking point. The stench of garbage piling up on the streets of the capital during this unusually hot summer seems to have awakened even the most disinterested of citizens to the growing reality that Lebanon growing problems are not only an unsustainable tragedy, but may soon be an insurmountable one.”

Write to the Lebanese Environment Minister to support the Beirut Port Employees’ union.

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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