In prompt response to complaints filed by dozens of households affected by health and environmental hazards caused by the Al-Safa unregulated dump site in Gaza, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) held an accountability hearing with the municipalities in charge of the dump site. The meeting culminated in a recommendation to establish a community commission, which would be tasked to set up a timeframe to close down the unregulated dump site within a maximum period of one month.
Representatives of municipalities and the Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management undertook to resolve the problem faced by the Al-Safa Street and to close down the unregulated dump site. The Council also pledged to take the initiative and clear the area of solid waste. In support of this planned intervention, every municipality will launch a public awareness raising programme to keep the area clean. Signs will be posted, warning against using land as a dump site. A recommendation made earlier by the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG) will also be implemented: From each municipality, a staff member will be appointed in morning and evening shifts to monitor and make sure that agreed recommendations are in place. AMAN held the accountability session in response to complaints lodged by the representative of dozens of households, who live in the Al-Safa neighbourhood in the Northern Gaza governorate. Residents suffer from health and environmental effects of the Al-Safa unregulated dump site, located on the municipal border of Jabalya and Beit Lahiya towns.
The accountability session addressed different aspects of residents’ suffering, including evolution of the problem associated with the Al-Safa unregulated dump site, actual responsibility of the municipalities and Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management, and role of each agency in devising and implementing fundamental solutions for this problem. The session also stressed the need for social responsibility towards the repeated complaints made by citizens. Public complaints should not be ignored or left unheeded.
At the beginning of the accountability hearing, discussion focused on the problem created by the Al-Safa unregulated dump site. For six years, citizens’ requests and complaints have gone unheard by government bodies. In addition to weak transparency, citizens have complained of the MoLG poor control to ensure that municipalities fulfil their obligations towards the local community. Government bodies have also failed to respond to citizens’ complaints. The municipalities of Jabalya and Beit Lahiya have not provided effective response to citizens’ needs. As each municipality holds the other responsible for the problem, citizens have been victims of overlapping powers.
Eng. Wahid al-Barsh, Board Chairman of the Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management, confirmed that the Council was responsible for coordinating activities regarding unregulated dump sites with municipalities. The Council is only in charge of managing and transporting solid waste from sanitary landfills. According to Al-Barsh, in spite of piecemeal solutions, the problem of Al-Safa dump site has persisted. The MoLG has followed up on this situation and addressed the Jabalya and Beit Lahiya municipalities and Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management. The Ministry recommended that employees be appointed in morning and evening shifts from both municipalities.
Directors of the Health and Environment Units at the Jabalya and Beit Lahiya municipalities explained that, years earlier, both municipalities agreed on a division of labour to provide services on the jointly-managed Al-Safa Street. A distribution of roles covers sewage, infrastructure, water and sanitation service provision. Both directors stressed that each municipality has fulfilled its duty of daily garbage collection in the neighbourhood.
Eng. Atef al-Sultan stated that, on several occasions, the Beit Lahiya municipality has cleaned the dump site. However, solid waste soon pile up again. Due to cash deficit, municipalities are challenged by limited resources and difficulty associated with solid waste transportation costs. Most residents are not committed to pay due utility bills. Al-Sultan recommended that a community commission be established and tasked with setting up a timeframe to close down the dump site. AMAN and community accountability committees will follow up on implementation of the foregoing recommendations.