E-Lebanon’s Voice: The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water
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      Farid Chehab

      The Phoenicians had cedar trees; today, the Lebanese have water. With over 70% of the human body made up of water and a similar ratio covering the planet water is the element from which all life springs. Yet in Lebanon, water gushing out of our rich mountain springs is not considered strategically important. Sadly, our politicians have been completely passive in the face of the current plunder and waste of such a valuable natural resource. The water issue has been neglected for so long that its vital relevance has been forgotten altogether. We talk about it, yes, but only in passing, in the back pages of newspapers, on political talk shows, or in relation to an abandoned project. The daily L’Orient-le-Jour in its March 16, 2011 edition summed up the matter well, as it currently stands in governmental circles. “The warming and decline of water resources. The minister of the environment held a press conference yesterday at the ministry’s headquarters to declare the release of Lebanon’s second report on the United Nations framework conference on Climate Change. OfWATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 163 ficials from the United Nations Development Program and other concerned ministers were present. The minister listed several forecasts related to climate change in Lebanon. Some of those findings indicated that there will be a temperature increase of 1° Celsius on the coast and 2° Celsius in the Bekaa by 2040, a 3.5° to 5° Celsius increase by 2090. At the same time, there will be a 10-20% decrease in precipitation by 2040, projected to plummet to 25-40% by 2090. The sea is expected to rise by 20 millimeters within the next 30 years. Alarmingly, the report warned of a decrease in water resources by as much as 800 million cubic meters by 2015. Salinity in artesian wells will go up, while a decrease of snow fall by as much as 40% in the event of a 2° Celsius warming may extend to 70% if temperatures rise by 4° Celsius – a likely outcome. The minister mentioned measures needed to be taken in order to face this reality, including the reforestation and sustainable development of forests, the modernization of laws on natural reserves, and the elaboration of projects that deal with climate change and its consequences, particularly on water resources. He stressed the efforts deployed by the ministry to create a national committee up to date on climate change on a national and international level. Among the commitThe New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 164 tee’s tasks are to organize, manage, and implement activities on the application of the United Nations’ framework convention, promote relations with international organizations and other countries regarding this issue, elaborate policies and measures to be taken to minimize climate change effects, encourage the use of proper technologies, launch training and awareness activities, and coordinate with local governmental institutions. Finally, the minister reminded the attendees that Lebanon pledged to produce 12% of its electricity from renewable energies by 2020, at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, a target mark that remains until now nothing more than empty words.” The government’s intention may have been real, yet implementation floats lifelessly in the country’s dwindling water supply. In fact, dozens of government initiatives and ministerial declarations exist, going all the way back to 1946, yet they seem to have drowned for ever in the depths of the State’s archives. Over the last 65 years, our achievements amount to the construction of the Litani Dam and, more recently the Chabrouh Dam, a few improvised – and disputed – reservoirs, an utterly obsolete irrigation system and a national network of inept canalizations. In the face WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 165 of unacceptable water degradation this poor record amounts to a sacrilegious waste. The managerial incompetency (absence of contingency plans in case of emergencies) and the collective irresponsibility (a silent civil society) are simply unacceptable. Compounded to this sad situation are the scare mongrels who claim our water resources will soon run out. After the lethargy comes denial and perjury! Yet contrary to such unfounded claims, you will come to learn in this chapter that our water resources are not only sufficient, but – and this will be a surprise to many – capable of generating excess revenue estimated at an annual $5 billion! Today, water is considered the most strategic commodity of the 21st century and the number one source of conflict in the world. Yet consider the following: our geography represents a unique natural water reservoir in the barren Arab peninsula. It is a source of great wealth with the potential to cement our Nation once and for all. Unfortunately for us, water has not been our priority. The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 166 Our majestic snow-capped mountains have been around since time memoriam – is that why we fail to notice them anymore? Snow-blindness has hit our governors bad. Coupled with laziness, ignorance and cupidity, it has wreaked havoc. Water flows in abundance and we mindlessly consume and pollute, ignoring the waste we leave behind. The cycle continues. The serious business monthly Le Commerce du Levant dedicated its April 2011 issue to the problem. “Lebanon Wastes its Water Away” is comprehensive report on the existing water infrastructures and the pending waste-management projects. An excerpt from the report reads as follows: “Considered as the natural water reservoir of the Middle East, Lebanon, compared to its neighbours, owns considerable water resources, the management of which is still lacking: only 10% of these resources have been exploited resulting in a loss rate of about 40%, due, in part to the lack of collection networks. Political immobility makes it impossible to address the vital needs for modernization and new infrastructure.” “During the dry season, the daily drinking water supply in Beirut is only three hours, collection networks suffer 40% loss, a parallel private market owns 75% of Lebanese household water expenses (…) The figures WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 167 on public water management in Lebanon are staggering. World Bank experts have clearly warned that if no measures are taken to improve the management of supply and demand, Lebanon will suffer chronic water shortages by 2020.” “Weak storage capacities, deficient collection networks, a considerable volume of unexploited water flowing into the sea, and the increase in water demand are the main signs foretelling a dry spell.” “These amounts, largely subsidized by international aid, are not only insufficient, but mainly deceptive: the majority of funds have been allocated to infrastructure that is still pending while non-operating wastewater treatment firms have yet to be linked to a sewage network.” “In 2000, the minister of energy and water resources tried to introduce new dynamics by developing a ten-year strategic plan aiming at filling the infrastructural gap in the country. With the approval of the council of ministers, this plan is expected to ensure additional water resources owing to the construction of 18 dams and 23 lakes designed to make 1,1 billion cubic meters of water available per year. However, any investment in the increase of water production is wasted if it is not combined with the rehabilitation The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 168 of collection networks, damaged during the civil war, which largely account for the current 40% loss.” “…with well over 18 dams, only the Chabrouh Dam for drinking water is currently operational.” “…Regarding wastewater treatment, over 20 stations were identified as having priority but only nine were built and of those, only four are operational.” “Water establishments do not yet enjoy the required financial autonomy to accomplish their tasks. Due to the failure of payment collection (11% in the Bekaa, 52% in the North, 61% in the South and 80% in Beirut), they can hardly ensure their financial stability. As a result, they lack the necessary means to maintain the networks or develop other projects. The insufficiency on the human, technical, and financial levels does not allow them for instance, to manage the wastewater treatment, operated by the ministry itself as well as certain municipalities.” “The water code, a law elaborated by a group of French and Lebanese experts in the framework of Lebanon’s water sector reform project stipulates the creation of a national council for water issues and an inter-institutional structure under the authority of the PrimeMinister charged with the elaboration of a coherent WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 169 and comprehensive strategy. It introduces the principles of mandatory water fees related to pollution and use, designed to establish a lasting financial balance. Better still, it allows for opportunities to tender management contracts, allowing water establishments to work in partnership with private companies.” “This text, which was finalized in 2004, is still pending in Parliament. Some in the political arena have raised their voices to denounce the governments’ passivity and the prevailing resistance to change (to safeguard personal interests). Concurrently, a large part of the population, unaware of the political interests at stake, is also dissatisfied with the matter.” “Between 1992 and 2006, the Bekaa has only reaped a 2% profit from its initial investment, making it the worst region for water management in the country. With 68% of households linked to public drinking water networks and only 11% of bills collected, the water authorities can barely pay 13% of operation and maintenance costs. The Bekaa suffers from serious water shortages that reach an average of 14 hours a day year round.” “Projects have been repeatedly drawn out in the past 60 years advising to develop the Litani, Lebanon’s most abundant river, but controversies around the funding The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 170 and construction of dams are delaying implementation.” “The pollution of the Litani Basin and the Qaraoun Dam has reached alarming levels due to the frequent flow of pesticides in the Bekaa and their infiltration into the water supply.” The government’s failure to act and the alarming projections on shortages are one of the reasons why I chose to embark on this book. The project is not based on a whim but on the need to mobilize the Nation to establish a modern and self-sufficient water infrastructure in Lebanon. A five-year plan will have the ability to: • Provide the Nation with drinking water, household water, irrigation water, and industrial water. • Ensure sufficient supply of electricity through water processing. • Develop new agricultural, touristic, and residential regions. • Sell excess water supplies to neighbouring countries, thereby ensuring increased state revenue. • FEDERATE. Water flows from the north to the south. Every Lebanese, regardless of his or her religious, political, economic or geographic affiliation is a stakeholder in the country’s water resources. WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 171 Such a plan will be the prime CATALYST to building a National Conscience. Failing to develop our resources constitutes a crime against the Nation. Some may argue that a national plan for water is not new. In fact, there is a pending project for 17 potential dams. And since Lebanon’s independence several people have articulated policies around our water resources. Including the late Maurice Gemayel, Albert Naccache, and Brahim Abd El Aal. I also take the opportunity to mention the unrelenting efforts of Fady Comair, the author of a major study on water in Lebanon and the Director of the Ministry of Water Resources. Jana Tamer whose journalistic approach has led her to study the issue of water and the potential conflicts that could arise in the region. Wael Hamdan, Director of the IndyAct Association, an NGO dedicated to the conservation of our water supplies. The RDC, the FAO, the World Bank. Kamal Slim, researcher at the NCSR for his efforts in finding a durable exploitation of our blue gold, and finally Hiram and David Corm who were kind enough to grant me access to the following unpublished study on water. In 1992, the Corm brothers, sons of the late poet and great businessman Charles Corm, took the initiative along with their business partner Teddy Hatem, to The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 172 commission a complete study of Lebanon’s water resources by Parsons Main International, Inc. A consultancy firm considered experts in water resources research and analysis. The company had gained fame in the Middle East for its study on water resources in the Jordan Rift Valley. A report commissioned by the United Nations within the framework of the United Nations Relief and works agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East. Known as the Johnston Plan, it was overseen by the Tennessee Valley Authority: the same institution involved in President Roosevelt’s New Deal. The study indicated that the annual average precipitation in Lebanon was around 10.000 million cubic meters, of which 2.560 million cubic meters were to be consumed, leaving an excess of 1.940 million cubic meters by 2015. The study, which had cost $1 million, was submitted to the government in 1993. At the time, the priority was the reconstruction of down town Beirut and the water plan was overlooked, despite the fact that the Minister of Water Resources had expressed great interest in the study’s findings. Sadly, a few years later, he passed away and the study was buried with him. In light of all this evidence, the details of which are available and accessible, regret is futile as all is not lost, at least not yet. At this juncture, seeing how much WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 173 time is still allotted to us, we should remind ourselves of the real value our country has to offer instead of focusing on externalities that have brought us this close to the brink of collapse. In other words, if we, the bearers of our own destiny care little for whence we came, then where we are headed will be a far-cry from what we rightly deserve. Only by triggering a National Conscience can such a fate be turned around. And the spirit of the Nation be ignited again. To become a reality, this plan requires more than a government, a couple of ministers and a handful of ordinary citizens. Its success relies on a diverse range of able and talented people operating under a visionary national plan that grants the necessary resources and influence to see it through. CAGI’s proposed fiveyear plan qualifies perfectly. At its core is the optimization of the country’s water resources following Parsons Main’s findings – the Corm brothers donated the study as a gesture of their unflinching belief in the wealth and potential growth of this nation. With a responsible media calling for action in that field, nothing will be left to chance. For the first time, the determination to set things right, once and for all, will be there. The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 174 What follows is a summary of the Parsons Main study. The curious and the skeptics are welcome to study it and share their thoughts on pari-rihan.org The site will soon contain all the mentioned studies as well as Maurice Gemayel, Albert Naccache, and Brahim Abed Aal’s earlier findings. Maurice Gemayel is the author of “A Comprehensive Plan for Lebanon’s Water”, an astoundingly accurate and detailed work I highly recommend. Also included is the study by the father of the Litani Dam, Albert Naccache as well as Brahim Abed Aal’s work, collected and published by the “Association of the Friends of Brahim Abed Aal,” under the supervision of Nasser Nasrallah. This association lobbies for a responsible water policy. Undoubtedly, with such a rich pool of talents, CAGI will take on several partners and allies to bolster its great commitment to the five-year plan. Parsons Main International’s Study The study is a preliminary document that accurately assesses the water wealth of Lebanon. Its findings were achieved with the help of Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing, which has an impressive track record in the field. It successfully discovered unexpected aquifers in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, as well as in Somalia and Sudan. Landsat satellite images of Lebanon identified four new aquifers. The first 8km WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 175 south of Tripoli, the second 12km east of Beirut, the third 6km west of Karaoun, and the fourth 5km west of Hasbaya. The locations can be confirmed and refined through the search of natural underground canals, drainage and flow thanks to the data provided by Landsat and Spot, a conclusive system for the observation of the planet offering multi-spectrum and stereoscopic data of high analytical importance that can pinpoint sub-terrain water pools. In addition, it was estimated that Chekka’s underwater source flow rate is roughly 10 cubic meters per second (equivalent to the flow rate at the Karaoun Dam). Though preliminary, these observations led to the following conclusions and projections: The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 178 Currently we exploit 1,120 million cubic meters of water or 11.2% of the total annual precipitations reaching 10,000 million cubic meters. According to the study’s findings, the rate can be increased to 45% of the total precipitations, i.e. 4,500 million cubic meters. Parsons Main 2015 estimates project consumption will rise to 2,560 million cubic meters. That leaves us with 1,940 million cubic meters in excess! Bear in mind that these assessments are conservative and only take into account 50% of the underground resource exploitation. According to the Ministry of Water Resources estimates, demand will reach a modest 1,800 million cubic meters by 2035. The Commerce du Levant advances its own numbers: a consumption of 2,055 million cubic meters by 2020 and 2,718 million cubic meters by 2030. Even with Parsons Main higher estimates for water consumption, the State is left will an excess water supply. With such significant disparities between the American and Lebanese projections, the State’s figures should undergo serious revisions, possibly with the help of international experts. Having assessed our water potential, Parsons Main went on to describe the data and measures used to reach their estimates. The study stressed the exisWATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 179 tence of over 17 rivers and 15 springs in Lebanon. Including the Awali River and its Bisri tributary. Based on accurate water data, the construction of a hydroelectrical dam station on the Awali would enable the production of: • A base annual energy level of 86 GWH and a total annual power generation of 138 GWH (to put these figures in perspective, Lebanon consumed 9.793 GWH in 2010). • Additional daily energy of 10 MW over 24 hours or, 28 MW over 12 hours, five days a week (pending water flow). • Control of the flow rate, minimization of the risks of floods and riverbed erosion. • Continuous control of the water flow to ensure proper irrigation, industry, and household use (between May and September). The figures presented above represent a sensible and modern hydro-electrical exploitation of a Lebanese river. But The Awali/Bisri case is just one example that can be applied to our other rivers, as they flow down our mountains into the sea. They offer the same possibilities as the Awali. In fact, except for the Litani, two hydro-electrical projects in the Kadisha and Nahr Brahim have followed the Awali example. The Parsons Main study recommends revising these early projects. The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 180 It also suggests reexamining THE POTENTIAL OF ALL THE OTHER RIVERS. Only after this is done, will the creation of a network of interconnected dams and hydro-electrical stations covering the entire country become possible. Parsons Main methodology is based on a systematic application of the HYSM computer model (hydro-electrical simulation) as well as on a network of individual or multiple hydro-electrical stations on the set river path, based on the waterfall model. Such simulations have been successful on several hydro-electrical projects around the world. HYSM takes into account the water’s courses, physical parameters, flow rate and power, supply and of course, the environment (geographic location, relief, slope, geological structure of soil, etc.) Based on this data, it simulates various exploitation options and yields several unexpected possibilities to optimize the course of rivers. (HYSM has been used for the Awali course model). Taking matters a step farther, the consultants proposed a series of recommendations to reduce the amounts of water evaporation and optimize the yield of agricultural land. Recommendations were also made to revive agricultural zones deemed economically nonviable through the use of new agricultural technologies. These are designed to enhance new agriculture WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 181 methods and wastewater recovery, with the help and education of the local population. The study proposes a three-year schedule, which includes a comprehensive survey of all our water resources backed by an action plan that can easily be applied to all the new projects. The execution stretches over five years and this is what constitutes our five-year plan. The Parsons Main study is far too detailed to go into in this book, as it presents a complex number of documents including recommendations supported by figures, maps, geological data, satellite documents, annual regional precipitation data, projections, computer models, and references to similar projects. However, I have no doubt that some of you will be intrigued to dig a little further, which is why CAGI can make all this information available on this book’s website. Such open access can raise awareness about the urgency of the situation. Beyond the raw data, the most extraordinary aspect of the whole project is the geographic distribution of our rivers. These systematically cover the respective influence zones of political parties and religious communities! Which makes me believe that the national five-year hydraulic plan is a great way to mobilize Lebanon’s The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 182 political forces. Not only would each party see its own benefit in advancing its fiefdom, but the Nation itself would also be rewarded from such an all-encompassing “new deal”. “In light of the evidence presented above, who would pass on endorsing and gaining from such an economically sound project?” From a federative national perspective, our successive governments’ lethargy and lack of vision has hindered us from seizing a major opportunity. Up to this point, only projects that served regional, political or personal interests were encouraged. As regional imbalances increase, so does the country’s division. The five-year plan’s strength resides in its far reaching benefits and its all-encompassing national scope. The great water project does not stop here. Like Singapore, a project for the recovery of rainwater and wastewater has to be included. Think of the huge quantities of water irremediably lost during the rainy season off Lebanon’s coastal cities. In Lebanon, construction permits are given regardless of the serious water losses that may be caused by a building’s foundations. Because of the flawed foundations, the phreatic layer does not absorb the water and as a result, it flows directly into the sea. The administration does not see WATER, AIR, EARTH AND MAN 183 the necessity of recycling wastewater. CAGI will be working on creating a new civic mind-set, raising awareness among officials to encourage them to act. How will we fund such projects? Considering the abundance of water, not to mention its highly-strategic value, there should be no problem in ensuring funds through the World Bank. But to create a collective and participative conscience among citizens, a financial plan should be drawn in such a manner as to make it accessible and easily understandable. Once this matter is resolved, a call on all Lebanese citizens to contribute in the funding process will not only be possible but applicable. This should get rid of any monopolies. Such participation might be achieved through an open shareholding plan offering a range of benefits to its subscribers. Remember, a similar plan had secured the necessary funds for the execution of the Suez Canal back in the Nineteenth Century. The Canal proved to be of vital strategic and economic importance to Egypt. The Fifth Part of this book, titled “Action Plan” will shed light on the mobilizing role played by CAGI in launching such a venture. Through its mobilizing force, it will infuse public opinion with a real and deep awareness of the issues at stake. Unprecedented public pressure will be necessary; the kind of pressure that The New Deal for Lebanon’s Water 184 can culminate in a demonstration of more than a million citizens irrespective of political or communal camps, unanimously calling for immediate action. And what better cause than “A Liquid Revolution,” which by nature is transparent, neutral, and free of ideology? This is the true creed of the National Conscience we aspire to!

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