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Competition launched to find Charleroi’s dirtiest street

14:38 01/07/2023

With illegal and secret dumping of waste reaching new highs, and not enough action taken by the authorities, a Charleroi resident has launched a competition to find the city's filthiest street.

Jacques Vanhaverbeke, resident of Marchienne Docherie, an area of Marchienne-au-Pont near Charleroi, has had enough and decided to organise the tongue-in-cheek contest along with his neighbours to highlight the problem.

“I do not know how to explain things any more. It is too much,” he told RTL. The long-suffering resident, who is so embarrassed at the situation that he no longer invites anyone to his home apart from his daughters, has made tackling the filth that has reigned in his street far too long his mission.

"We have lunch, dinner and supper opposite this disgusting ‘landscape’," he said. "The situation has continued for years, despite talks with our insalubrious neighbours, reports to the local police and to the environmental officers. Nothing has changed."

The pensioner, who has lived in the same street for 40 years, is battling to find the most disgusting street in Charleroi, "despite our mayor Paul Magnette saying, repeating and continuing to repeat that actions will be taken against polluters with video cameras and police sanctions".

Revolting prizes are on offer in this fictitious competition, Vanhaverbeke said: "First prize: a crate of live rats caught by local residents. Second prize, a crate of dead rats that children on our street play with. Third prize, a tonne of waste picked up from the street – with the smells an added bonus."

While the contest is a joke, it has been launched with a serious message – to highlight the growing waste problem. The key is the dumping of waste and rubbish on the street which is collected once a week by the Charleroi region’s intermunicipal waste management company Tibi.

Residents say that there are not enough sanctions or mechanisms put in place by the local authorities to stop the literal rot, despite their repeated demands to aldermen Xavier Desgain and Mahmut Dogru, responsible respectively for mobility, public works and the ecological transition and cleanliness; even though Tibi managing director Philippe Tellier told RTL that offenders can receive fines of up to €350.

Meanwhile, the city of Charleroi’s communal authorities, emphasising that it already spends €11.5 million a year on public cleanliness, deplore that secret dumping of waste and environmental offences continue in Charleroi and neighbouring towns.

“It is a perpetual renewal, due to the increasing number of antisocial people who do not respect their environment or know how to live properly at home,” Dogru said.

Dogru added that the waste dumping problem happens all over Belgium, not just in Charleroi.

While no dates have been given, Charleroi has committed to installing surveillance cameras throughout its territory. “As part of their missions, the surveying police officers were able to identify certain places where problems were concentrated and recurring,” the city said. It believes that with access to camera images, locating the waste dumping and catching those responsible for it would be easier.

In the meantime, in collaboration with the police and Tibi, the city council said a larger team of reporting officers – with four extra people promised from July – will continue to concentrate on improving residents’ quality of life, urging respect for the environment and the application of and compliance with general police regulations.

Written by Liz Newmark