Tunisian police fire tear gas on protesters asking to close a garbage dump


TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian police fired tear gas on Monday on protesters who refused an authority’s decision to reopen a controlled landfill in the southern town of Agareb, the first test for the government appointed by president Kais Saied who seized executive power in July.

Closure of controlled landfill this year in Agareb caused thousands of tons of household waste to accumulate for about a month in the streets, markets and even hospitals of Sfax, the second largest Tunisian city.

The accumulation of waste sparked widespread anger in Sfax, where thousands protested last week saying the authorities were deliberately killing them and violating their right to life.

Agareb landfill, 20 kilomters from Sfax, was closed this year following the complaint of residents, who said diseases have spread and they are suffering an environmental disaster because the landfill‮ ‬has reached its maximum capacity.

President Kais Saied called on the Minister of the Interior and the Prime Minister to find an immediate solution to the accumulation of waste in Sfax.

Late on Monday, the Ministry of Environment reopened the closed estuary, despite a judicial decision prohibiting its reopening.

Witnesses said that with the start of collecting waste from Sfax and loading it towards Agareb, hundreds of young people gathered, rejecting the decision to open it, which prompted the police to fire gas to disperse them.

Saied has faced mounting criticism abroad since he assumed executive authority in July, then brushed aside most of the constitution to seize near total power in moves critics have called a coup.

Saied unveiled a new government in October and has promised a national dialog, but has yet to lay out a detailed plan to restore normal constitutional order as donors demand.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by David Gregorio)

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