"The moment you enter the Palestinian Raml [refugee camp], put a mask on your nose until youget past the neighborhood's entrance." These were the exact words of advice of one of the neighborhood's residents to us, to avoid the unpleasant odors emitted from the garbage mounds piled at the entrance of the Palestinian Raml. A residential area adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, wherein settled 1948 Palestinians, as well as some Lattakia natives reside, had turned into an archaic slum over the years. The Palestinian Raml also witnessed massive protests against the Syrian regime in 2011, in tandem with other cities, at the time.
As a penalty therefore, one of the sanctions meted against the population of this area was to prevent them from transferring garbage to its normal dumpsites.
Initially, demonstrators used garbage containers as protective shields to deflect security forces bullets or possible sudden raids. But regime forces withdrew all garbage containers in this neighborhood, deliberately leaving waste to pile up in the streets and blocking moving or cleaning services. One of the regime security men even said "You want to demonstrate? Go ahead, but we will leave you to rot in your garbage!"
Mohammed, a quinquagenarian resident of the Palestinian Raml, speaks to Rozana on the garbage situation of the neighborhood. He recounts the many times residents attempted to take the garbage out from the neighborhood to the dedicated dumpsites; yet always met with rejection and obstruction. After more than two years now, once can see a great hill of garbage in one of the squares of the Palestinian Raml, coupled with an indescribable stench of rot.
Says Mohammed: "The situation now is no better than before. We were not allowed to move the waste to the dumpsite; but were only allowed to pile it up at the entrance of the Raml, close to the Military Security detachment."
Cleaning and Municipality Workers Absent!
The Qalaa and other Lattakia city neighborhoods are not faring any better than the Palestinian Raml, however. In these neighborhoods, garbage does not roll into hills of piled up waste; but is rather strewn around the garbage containers, unmoved. This, unlike the Raml, has nothing to do with political or sectarian motives;
The pro-regime Azhari neighborhood also suffers from the accumulated garbage problems. Residentsoften complain about the annoying accumulation of filth in front of a primary school.
Massoud, one of the neighborhood residents, says that the residents reuqested their neighborhood official as well as the municipality to do something regarding the garbage issue, and not leave this to become a focal point of epidemics and diseases. "At the start of the demonstrations in Lattakia, there was lethargy on the part of the garbage collectors. The regime used them to suppress demonstrators in collaboration with security men. But now, a great many of them have been called up for reserve service; still, this does not exempt the municipality and the provincial council of their responsibilities."
Summer Will Bring Epidemics!
With regard to transmittable diseases due to accumulated waste, particularly with the start of the spring and predicted the proliferation of germs in the summer, we talk to Doctor "Ahmed," a public health specialist. He confirms that this waste, if not addressed before the summer, will signal the advent of new pandemics which had long been absent from Syria. "In the winter, this is a much less serious matter; yet in the summer, we will be confronted by many skin, digestive, and septic diseases. Anthrax, typhoid, and hepatitis may find in the combination of garbage and summer heat a suitable environment for the growth and spread of their germs and viruses."
The Alawite Countryside Not Immune To Disaster!
On the international highway that connects the cities of Hama and Jableh, through the village of Beit Yashout inhabited by Alawites; one finds trash on the roadside, without any attention or attempts on the part of the municipality to clean the road.
"Ali," a Beit Yashout resident, tells Rozana about the extent of dereliction by the Beit Yashout municipality in the regular collection and transfer of garbage. "At first, the municipal authorities neglected waste collection and transfer; as well in cleaning the sides of the international road from refuse thrown by passers-by. Later, however, the region's residents themselves turned the roadside into a garbage landfill; which is truly unfortunate."
Beit Yashout is not the only village in the Jableh countryside suffering from neglect by the municipality and garbage collectors. Near an establishment dedicated to the distribution of cement in the Jableh countryside, the municipality itself resorts to collecting waste and piling it; to the point of creating a source of stench of waste spreading as far as one kilometer away. The municipality used to previously throw waste in a river called the "Abu Ba'arah" River.