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Libyan conflict leaves trash hills smelling on the streets of Tripoli

LIBYA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Mabrouk Ahmed says he has to stay up in the night to prevent people from throwing their garbage into the wide street overlooking his house in the south of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

A few hundred meters away, along with the concrete pillars of an incomplete bridge, garbage heaps pile up to a height that obscures passing cars and emits smoke on the side of the road.

The accumulation of garbage, which residents say has reached unprecedented levels in recent weeks before easing slightly, reflects the steady decline in the state of public services in the city, isolated from its remote areas and from the largest garbage dump, due to a six-month military offensive.

Since troops stationed in the east, led by Khalifa Hifter, began a campaign to seize control of Tripoli in early April, it has become impossible to reach the site of the city’s main landfill in the Sidi Al-Sayah area, about 50 km south of the city center.

City authorities began depositing waste from all over Tripoli at a crossing point in the Abu Salim neighborhood. When the garbage began to exceed the limit, officials tried to reduce the amount of garbage dumped into the area, causing it to accumulate in the streets of many neighborhoods.

In response, people marked signs of violent threat or religious sermons to prevent garbage dumping.

Others put plastic water containers and tires on the sidewalks near their shops or homes, or surround them with plastic tape.

In the al-Hadba neighborhood, where 38-year-old health worker Ahmed lives, a banner reads: “Don’t throw garbage here, retarded.”

“If I don’t keep my eyes on them from eight in the morning until 12 after midnight, they throw their garbage in the street,” Ahmed says.

“There are a lot of harmful effects … when they burn them, you can’t even sit in front of your house. Smoke even goes home.”

– Political paralysis –

Despite sporadic fighting on the outskirts of the city, life in the center of Tripoli continues as much as before. Some garbage trucks and street sweepers operate, and the roads look clean in some richer neighborhoods.

But the state of infrastructure in the city of 3 million people is gradually easing due to sporadic conflict and political paralysis that has existed since the 2011 uprising.

The internationally-recognized government in Tripoli is struggling to survive and was born as a spoiler in 2016 because of the rejection of opponents in the east and powerful armed groups at home.

Tens of thousands of people displaced by the current battle have increased pressure on services, closed some schools and increased rental values.

The trucks are now unloading in the Abu Salim neighborhood after climbing on a 25-meter-high garbage hill. As new shipments arrive, garbage collectors, mostly African immigrants, dive around their faces to resist bad smell, amidst the search for plastic, cardboard and metal. But the rest of the garbage remains in place.

“We are kicking garbage until there is a wider place,” said Orabi Musa, the square supervisor at the Abu Salim dump.

One resident, Ibrahim Bouzid, who collected about 500 signatures calling for the removal of garbage from the site, said the landfill was adjacent to residential blocks, forcing residents to constantly close windows for fear of toxic fumes.

“There are unpleasant odors, microbes and insects. This is a big topic and is now uncontrolled. There are cases of chest diseases including children. ”

In Fashloum district, a central district, pharmacist Safia Labsir said she intervened to prevent someone from lighting trash outside her pharmacy for disposal.

“I would rather breathe in this smell than burn it because it is a disaster,” she said.

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