Tunisia: The waste crisis ignites anger in Sfax
Tunisia– According to the Tunisian daily La Presse, it is a “real environmental disaster” in the Sfax region, southeast of Tunis capital. In addition, severe tensions surrounding the controversial reopening of the main landfill in Agareb have led to scuffles with law enforcement and the death of one man, apparently due to tear gas inhalation, although the Ministry of Indoor contests this version.
The underlying problem concerns the management of tons of household waste that for over a month and a half has covered the streets of Sfax without the competent authorities, the municipality, intervening to remove them, and the regional environmental management finds a new landfill following the decision to close that of Agareb, as its collection capacity has expired.
Local media report that the affair has sparked a controversy between those who hold the municipality of Sfax responsible (under the control of Ennahda following the municipal elections of 6 May 2018), which refused to dispose of the accumulated waste, and those who believe that the regional directorate should assume responsibility for the environment under the ministry of regional affairs and the environment.
After having instructed the Minister of the Environment to go and investigate the place and question the citizens of Sfax on the proposals they want to make to free their city from pollution, the President of the Republic Kais Saied has decided to take matters into his own hands inviting, on Monday, Najila Bouden, the new head of the government, and the Minister of the Interior, Taoufik Charfeddine, to a working session at the Palace of Carthage. Absent, no one knows why, the Minister of the Environment, dedicated, according to the statement released by the Presidency, “to examining solutions to eradicate this type of crisis consciously created to trigger crises among the people.”
The head of state instructed the interior Minister to intervene immediately to end this situation in Sfax. The decision was to reopen the Agareb landfill despite the opposition of the city’s inhabitants and in contradiction with the decision already taken to close the site. Yesterday, it was announced that the landfill would resume operations with several measures: site remediation, gas extraction, and treatment by doubling the frequency of deodorization and insect treatment. The ministry insists on the involvement of civil society “in the implementation of the national waste management strategy mainly oriented to separate collection for recovery and recycling.”
The spokesperson for the Sfax court of the first instance indicates that a judicial investigation has been opened. However, only the medical examiner’s report (which will be revealed today) will determine the natural causes of the young demonstrator’s death.