Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis
Tunisians gather before blocking a road in the city of Agareb following the death of a protester during demonstrations over the reopening of a rubbish dump. (AFP)
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Updated 14 November 2021

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis
  • Rubbish dumped at the site includes dangerous industrial and medical refuse causing a string of diseases

AGAREB: As tear gas and protest cries filled the air in the Tunisian city of Agareb, Mabrouka Ben Ibrahim vowed to demonstrate for her daughter, whose death she blames on a nearby rubbish dump.

Yousra, 21, died in 2019 after being bitten by a mosquito that came from the toxic trash site, Ben Ibrahim said.

“I lost my daughter and I don’t want other families to lose their children because of the filth in this landfill,” the 59-year-old said.

Residents say rubbish dumped at the site, including dangerous industrial and medical refuse, has caused a string of diseases from cancer to vision problems and infertility.

Authorities decided to close the site in September after declaring it full but reversed course on Monday, prompting angry street demonstrations that degenerated into clashes with security forces.

In the early hours of Tuesday, a protester died of what relatives said was tear gas inhalation, although authorities have blamed his death on an unrelated health condition.

The protests come amid a garbage crisis across Sfax province that has seen refuse piling up on pavements after the closure of the Agareb site, the province’s main dump.

Residents say the site, around three km from the town center and stretching over 35 hectares, has become a public health disaster since it opened in 2008.

“Two years after it was opened, we started seeing an increase in allergies, respiratory diseases and miscarriages as a direct result of burning of trash and the release of toxic gases” from the site, said Bassem Ben Ammar, a doctor who has worked in the town for two decades.

“The number of cancer cases has shot up.”

Even as the smell of tear gas dissipates, the stench of refuse still hangs over the town of 40,000.

“During the summer and throughout the year, the mosquitos and the disgusting smell never leave us. We can’t even open our windows,” demonstrator Adel Ben Faraj said.

The dump, situated in the middle of a nature reserve, receives more than 620 tons of waste every day, according to Ines Labiadh of the FTDES rights group.

Ben Ammar said the site was a destination for “waste of all kinds, including medical waste, amputated body parts and even fetuses.”

The Environment Ministry said medical waste was treated before going into the dump.

The site, one of 13 official landfills in the North African country, serves around 1 million people and receives waste from numerous factories in the city of Sfax, Tunisia’s main industrial hub.

As in the rest of Tunisia, only a small fraction of the region’s waste is recycled, with the rest either buried or incinerated.

Residents say the site was only meant to be active for five years, but its use was extended and it continued operating despite a judge ordering its immediate closure in 2019.

It was deemed full and finally shut down in late September, but authorities reopened it this week, triggering renewed outrage among residents.

Activists have warned that similar protests could easily flare over other landfill sites in Tunisia.

Labiadh told AFP that less than 10 percent of the country’s waste was recycled.

“This is damaging public health and the environment” around landfill sites, she said, calling on the state to set up a functioning recycling system.

Many of the landfill sites are found in marginalized areas.

“Today there are demonstrations in Agareb, but tomorrow they could happen around dumps in the capital. No dump in Tunisia is immune,” she said.

“Some areas have clean air, while others are marginalized and deprived of basic rights.”

In Agareb, some residents have been using art to campaign for a solution.

Maamoun Ajmi, a 29-year-old architect, is part of the “Maneche Msabb” (I’m not a rubbish dump) art collective.

He showed AFP two of his artworks — one a portrait of Yousra as an angel, the other showing a rat eating the section of the Tunisian constitution dealing with environmental rights.

He was among activists who met with President Kais Saied in Tunis on Thursday to highlight the town’s plight.

Ajmi told AFP the protesters had nothing to do with politics.


Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures

Updated 5 sec ago

Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures

Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures
BEIRUT: Lebanon will impose a night-time curfew starting Dec. 17 on non-vaccinated people for three weeks.
And full vaccination will be made mandatory for all workers in several sectors due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the COVID-19 committee said on Wednesday.
Vaccination will be mandatory for all civil servants and workers in the health, education, tourism and public transport sectors as of Jan. 10, the committee said.
A new coronavirus variant found in South Africa and detected in several countries was determined as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization last week and has led to strengthening COVID-19-related restrictions around the world.

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
Updated 01 December 2021

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
  • Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6% of the world's vaccines
  • "The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean

CAIRO: An official at the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office said on Wednesday seven countries in the region have not yet reached a threshold of 10 percent vaccination coverage.
These countries represent a high-risk setting for the emergence of further variants, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said at a news briefing in Cairo.
Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6 percent of the world’s vaccines, while G20 countries have received more than 80 percent, Al-Mandhari said.
“The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said Al-Mandhari. “Indeed, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
So far, 24 countries may have reported cases of the new Omicron variant, said Abdinasir Abubakr, infection hazards prevention manager for the region.
Early Omicron cases suggest mild symptoms, added Richard Brennen, WHO regional emergency director in the region.
In terms of the response to the variant, he warned of complacency and COVID-19 fatigue and encouraged social-distancing measures.
However, he said social and travel curbs require risk assessment before implementation.
“While we understand that some countries locked down international travel, this has to be done on evidence and strong analysis,” said Brennen.
As of Nov. 29, over 16.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 309,500 deaths were reported across the Eastern Mediterranean region.


IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant
Updated 28 min 29 sec ago

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant

IAEA plans to step up inspections at Iran's Fordow plant
  • The 2015 Iran nuclear deal does not allow Iran to enrich uranium at Fordow at all
  • Until now it had been producing enriched uranium there with IR-1 machines and had enriched with some IR-6s without keeping the product

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog plans to increase the frequency of its inspections at Iran's Fordow plant after Iran started producing enriched uranium with more advanced machines there, the watchdog said in a report to member states on Wednesday seen by Reuters.
“The Agency has decided and Iran has agreed to increase the frequency of verification activities at FFEP and will continue consultations with Iran on practical arrangements to facilitate implementation of these activities,” the International Atomic Energy Agency report said, referring to the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

The IAEA said Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20 percent purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow. Those machines are far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both fully back into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed this week after a five-month break prompted by the election of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi.
Western negotiators fear Iran is creating facts on the ground to gain leverage in the talks.
Underlining how badly eroded the deal is, that agreement does not allow Iran to enrich uranium at Fordow at all. Until now it had been producing enriched uranium there with IR-1 machines and had enriched with some IR-6s without keeping the product.
It has 94 IR-6 machines installed in a cascade at Fordow that is not yet operating, the IAEA said in a statement.


Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
Updated 01 December 2021

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
  • The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19
  • Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities

CAIRO: Egyptian citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will from Wednesday be denied access to all government services and buildings unless they can provide evidence of a negative PCR test.

The decision was taken by the Supreme Committee for Coronavirus Crisis Management, which said the rule would apply to the provision of government services in all governorates and ministries.

The Ministry of Local Development instructed governors to implement the committee’s decision and refuse entry to government departments for anyone who is unable to provide evidence that they have been fully vaccinated or submit a negative PCR test result.

The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19 in places of work and study.

The Ministry of Health and Population said it had made vaccines available to all citizens and that they should get vaccinated to avoid being disadvantaged by the new ruling.

It added that people who had not yet had their jabs should visit one of the many vaccination facilities located at medical centers, subway and railway stations, or the mobile units that travel throughout villages and towns.

Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities, the health ministry said.

Egypt implemented a rule on Nov. 15 that prevents unvaccinated government employees from entering their place of work.


Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
Updated 01 December 2021

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
  • The council will hold its next regular meeting in Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference
  • The Muslim Council of Elders is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb

CAIRO: The Muslim Council of Elders has decided to hold the next round of the Dialogue of East and West in Bahrain after postponing it in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The council is an independent international body based in Abu Dhabi and aimed at promoting peace, dialogue and tolerance. It is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and its membership includes an elite group of Muslim scholars.

The council will hold its next regular meeting in the Bahraini capital, Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference.

The imam expressed his appreciation to Bahrain’s people and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa for hosting the new edition of the dialogue.

He noted that the dialogue comes within the framework of strengthening relations between religious and cultural institutions in Islamic countries and their counterparts in Western societies, establishing common ground based on shared values and promoting coexistence.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahraini Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and a member of the Muslim Council of Elders, expressed Bahrain’s excitement to host the meeting and the new edition of the dialogue.

Sultan Al-Romaithi, secretary-general of the council, said that arrangements for the dialogue are now being finalized and that the new edition will witness positive interactions between Western and Eastern scholars and intellectuals.

He explained that the council is in the process of nominating youths to participate in the dialogue who have the capabilities to become future leaders and ambassadors for the Muslim Council of Elders.

The council was founded on July 13, 2014 to spread a culture of peace in Muslim societies, reject violence and extremism, and confront hate speech.