The Wettest Country In The Middle East Might Face Water Shortage
Lebanon’s Water Crisis
Population growth, rapid urban expansion, and the influx of Syrian refugees have led to a water deficit.
Lebanon is well-known for its natural advantages, making it one of the most unique and visually appealing countries that are popular amongst tourists. However, it lacks a basic ingredient of life, which is safe and pure drinking water.
Lebanon has been suffering from a water crisis for a long time despite the availability of natural water resources. Population growth, rapid urban expansion, and the influx of Syrian refugees have led to a water deficit. Moreover, poor management of water resources, wastewater, and its treatment complicates the problem.
“Lebanon’s water supply has been severely mismanaged and the tap water is so toxic,” BBC says.
Lebanon depends on rivers, groundwater, rain, and mountain snowcaps as a source of fresh and clean water.
However, the unsustainable practices and mismanagement of water usage expose Lebanon to a water shortage in the long run.
About 1.6 million people in Beirut and the Mount Lebanon area suffer from a water supply shortage.
According to the World Bank, most of the fresh water in Lebanon is stored in mountain snowcaps or underground reservoirs. Unfortunately, most of this water gushes out into the sea instead of aggregating or rechanneling it, so that people could benefit from it.
A study made in 2019 states that if water-saving measures are implemented, it can reduce the water deficit in Lebanon considerably.
Consequently, people suffer from the burden of the high costs of water. They depend on expensive water bottles or water supplies from private tanker trucks that are common in Beirut. A housewife says in an interview to BBC that she spends about 30% of her salary on drinking water just for her baby.
While the Lebanese government says that it is exerting its efforts to improve water supply conditions, yet people believe that it is not enough.
Lebanese activist, Nisreen Khatar, says, “If they will make small sources offering water for the place, it will not cost too much, so they will not have a lot of money,”
She added, “The issue here is that the politicians do not even think about the benefit of the people.”
The Bisri Dam project: In the 1950s, the Lebanese government examined the water crisis and decided to build the “Bisri Dam”, next to the town of Bisri, to capture and re-channel the water. However, things couldn’t shape up to execute that plan due to a lack of funds.
The Bisri dam project was adopted again in 2014 and came into effect in 2015 after funding from the World Bank was approved. However, some concerns were raised over the safety of the dam. Anti-dam and environmental activists said the dam is an “environmental ticking time-bomb”.
They said the dam disrupts the nearby ecosystem, threatens biodiversity, and destroys the shelters of animals.
They have also stated that this dam violates the Paris Convention on Climate Change and the 2030 sustainable development goals.
By 2020, the World Bank froze $600 million funds dedicated to the dam project in response to activists and civil society groups.
“Given strong stakeholder concerns about the project, the World Bank has requested the Government of Lebanon to launch an open and transparent public dialogue to address the concerns raised by citizens and civil society groups,” the World Bank said.
Lebanon Water Project: One of the most significant water projects in Lebanon currently in progress is the Lebanon Water Project (LWP), which started in 2015 and ends in 2021.
USAID as a funder works on improving the access to water, wastewater management, efficient irrigation, better water governance, and enhancing the sustainability of water utilities.
The Lebanon Water Project builds on the success of the “Lebanon Waste and Wastewater Sector Support” project (2009-2015).
It is also coordinated by Italy, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank along with USAID.
However, water projects should be fostered by the Lebanese government intervention, along with the re-assessment of the Bisri Dam project to mitigate the negative impacts of the water deficit on the people.