Water in Lebanon – Some issues to reflect on

Greater Beirut Water Supply Project: 2012
The initial project was under consideration since 1960s. Then, in 1990s, the World Bank became involved through the provision of technical assistance, only to later drop the project before any financing was disbursed. In 2010 the project was approved, to be effective in 2012.The total cost of the project is $370 million, of which International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (WB) is $200 million, Beirut – Mount Lebanon Water Establishment is $140 million and the government will finance the remaining $30 million for land appropriation. The project would provide 40 million cubic meters of water from the Awali River to Beirut per year. The project would be implemented by Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment and the CDR, in cooperation with the MoEA. The water conveyor tunnel was expected to be completed in 2019. The project comprises two phases. The first is to carry water through a conveyor (tunnel) from the Awali River to Khalde. The second phase entails building distribution networks and water reservoirs. This phase will see the installation of 200 kilometers of water pipes, 16 water tanks of capacity 1000 cubic meters-each, and two large water reservoirs.

Water Supply Augmentation Project: 2014
The Litani River Authority first launched a study for the construction of Bisri dam in 1987. Responsibility for this project was transferred to Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment in cooperation with CDR and WB, because it is conceived to supply potable water to the Capital. Moreover, because the dam is at 450m elevation, and the Awali hydropower plant is at 228m elevation, this difference in elevation will allow connection to the plant and extension of its capacity by adding 2 new generators to produce energy (10MW) before transporting the water to Beirut. 
The Lebanese Government approved the WB loan for this project in 2014, with the objective to increase the volume of water available to the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
This project will see the construction of a new dam on the Awali River (Bisri) to increase the water supply to Beirut. The total cost of the project is $617 million, of which $474 million loan from WB, along with parallel financing from the Islamic Bank for Development ($128 million) and from the Lebanese Government ($15 million). Noting that the Islamic Bank for Development increased his financial participation of $70 million for the second phase of the project. The WB loan is consisted of $320 million earmarked in funds for construction and $150 million for expropriation of properties around the project. The construction of the dam will take about 5 years from the date of the signature of agreement.
The Bisri Dam reservoir (capacity 125 Mm3) will fill up naturally during the rainy season to be used during summer and pumping treated water will flow to the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment area entirely by gravity through the conveyor. It will be distributed to households through networks which are currently rehabilitated as per Greater Water Supply Project, mentioned above. The water flow will allow the transition from the current intermittent water supply to continuous water supply in Beirut in a phased manner. Based on global experience, steady water supply is safer for consumers. Water remains safe in any distribution system when pipes are constantly full. In intermittent supply systems, pumping stops randomly and the pressure in the pipes drops. This allows for groundwater from the surrounding areas to seep in, bringing with it wastewater.

Some issues to reflect on:
If this project is not implemented we have to be aware that Lebanon will have to face several issues mainly the infrastructures of the Greater Beirut Water Supply project are almost at their final stages, covered by the fund and they will not be functional until the Bisri dam is constructed. The Lebanese government has already paid the land expropriation in the Bisri valley and on the Hadath and other parts of the project. Moreover the contract has been officially approved and notified to the contactor to build the dam, which will require compensation. Can the people that received the money from the land expropriation return them to the Government? Who will pay the contractor’s compensation? And Beirut and suburbs will not have access to water, and we will witness citerns selling water in summer and people paying more money to buy their water, in this financial crisis.
One important issue we have to reflect on also in the use of every drop of water in our South rivers, noting that before 2000, and the liberation of our land, Lebanon could not succeed to get fund for this project.

The Lebanese citizens are suffering from the water shortages, the degradation of the environment across the country. Water resources in Lebanon are under pressure from numerous directions, uncontrolled urbanization, loss of agricultural lands, and pollution of rivers, solid waste mismanagement, overuse of pesticide and fertilizers, as well as over-extraction of groundwater. These factors make water management a daunting task. These problems, rooted in the structural problems of the Lebanese state, are further exacerbated by the unpredictability of climate change. Given these enormous challenges we are facing, as Lebanese citizens, we call upon the need to strengthen the administration, the legal framework, and enforce regulation. We will have to fight corruption, reinforce transparency, accountability, integrity and equity, to achieve an equitable and sustainable development of water-service delivery.  Water projects should insure the water actor’s involvement and ownership to gain public trust. The publication of all data and information on water management to the public and community groups ( water shortage, allocation of water for different sectors, and the environment ) would be an easy first step in that direction. Another step will be to devise adequate policies, laws, and regulations at the river basin scale with an overarching approach toward national policy. Moreover a land use strategy should be established to secure the irrigations projects (Canal 800m).
It is estimated that the Litani River is receiving around 40.000.00 m3 of waste water a year. In response to the dramatic pollution on the basin, the Lebanese government has initiated a large-scale infrastructure investment program to de-pollute and secure clean water in the river. Legislation was promulgated to allocate funding for this project and provide the legal framework for its implementation. Law 63 /64 allocates funding to fight pollution on the basin. We did not witness any progress on this issue.
 This initiative was the pilot project to de-pollute other basins as well, as all of them suffer from environmental pollution that has accumulated over the years. The Ministry of Environment was commissioned by the Cabinet resolution in 2017 to prepare a roadmap to combat the pollution of each of Lebanon’s basins, as was prepared for the Litani basin. 

We say Water is life, we say Water for hygiene is the first preventing way to protect from Coronavirus and spreading of other water-caused diseases which are still major global plagues.

We say water for food security is the first preventing way to protect from hunger virus.

Let’s unite to save the most precious resources in Lebanon, Water resources.


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