A four-month-long waste collection crisis in Beirut has resulted in a river of trash snaking through the Lebanese capital’s Jdeidah suburb. The city’s trash river, which began as a makeshift dump, has since accumulated into a snaking river that holds 2 million tons of trash. Citizens have described the makeshift dump as “toxic” and “cancerous.”

After a deal to export the waste to Russia fell through, it is not clear how policy-makers intend to deal with the mounting trash crisis.

This is not the first time that the cosmopolitan capital long known for its beautiful sights and green landscape has been beset with garbage woes. In 2015, residents and activists protested the government’s failure to manage the city’s waste in 2015 after the city’s main landfill Naameh was closed due to overfill. Protesters carried placards and symbolic garbage bags, and wore paper masks as they gathered in the city’s downtown district, calling for the government to resign.

A group of activists called “Til’iat Reehitkum” (You Stink) organized a number of protests in response to the government’s failure to manage the city’s waste in 2015 (“You Stink” being a reference to both the waste collection crisis and the corruption of the government).

Sukleen, the company responsible for collecting the city’s waste, claimed that, with the landfill closed, they could no longer collect waste since they had nowhere to dump it. Although the closure of the landfill was anticipated, no alternatives were made available.

At the time, the city’s failure to manage its waste was largely perceived as a reflection of the government’s inability to overcome political differences and a general political breakdown.

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