May 19, 2022

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The smell of rubbish suffocates Tunisia's industrial hub of Sfox

The smell of rubbish suffocates Tunisia’s industrial hub of Sfox

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Sfox (Tunisia) (AFP) – The streets of Sfox, the largest industrial city in the Middle East and Tunisia, have been littered with garbage and its stench for weeks. Residents and NGOs warned of a crisis on Saturday. Failed waste management in the country.

Garbage bags with their stench and the flies that cover them have been piled up in various parts of Sfax for more than 40 days, even in piles near hospitals, shops and schools.

“The situation is dire, in the strict sense of the word, catastrophic,” said Mohamed Bouzelban, a resident of Tunisia’s second largest city with a population of more than one million.

Wearing the mask, he adds, “We can no longer live the usual way. Garbage is everywhere. We are so afraid for the health of our families and children.”

The economy of the coastal city is based on agriculture, especially the production of olive and almond oil, as well as the conversion of industries and phosphates.

Pointing to dozens of black plastic bags behind him, the owner of the epic, Rabe Obid, demands the immediate intervention of the authorities.

We can’t stay in our stores because of the stench and flies, we complained to the municipalities, but there is no solution yet, ”he says.

Hamdi Chaban, an expert on waste assessment and a member of the civil coalition “Green Tunisia”, explains to the AFP that since the closure of the mainland in Sfax’s Agrop area at the end of September, municipalities have refused to collect waste until the government finds a solution.

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As a result, “the area is currently experiencing a catastrophic ecological situation,” he added.

According to local media, the Agrop landfill was closed following protests against the dumping of chemical waste in a place set aside for household waste.

Temporary solution?

On October 21, Environment Minister Leila Chikhaoui, during her visit to Sfax municipalities, proposed the creation of new places to temporarily store waste from homes.

However, this temporary solution was rejected by the residents, who opposed the conversion of the land into a landfill.

An ambulance goes by on a road in Sfox, and garbage bags pile up on the sidewalk after a garbage dump in the area closes. Hossam Zouari AFP

In Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, difficulties in dealing with garbage are recurring. Many international organizations claim that most of the 2.5 million tons of garbage collected each year is dumped in landfills without being treated or incinerated, while only a small amount is recycled.

According to a recent report by the World Bank, only 61 percent of waste is collected in the capital, Tunis, and most end up in open space.

After the 2011 revolution, the country was trying to get rid of a lot of chaotic rubbish, and municipal councils were elected, but lacked resources.

At the government level, different ministries accept responsibility for the file, which leads to conflicting capabilities, and this also happens to local authorities, for example, who refuse to collect hazardous and contaminated hospital waste.

In 2020, Tunisia saw corruption in the shipping of hundreds of waste containers from Italy on the pretext of carrying plastic scraps for industrial recycling, and their load was found to be domestic waste, which is banned from importing under Tunisian law.

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