The Lebanese Litani River and Sustainable Development by Hussein Badreddine

After adopting the 2030 Agenda of sustainable development in September 2015, world leaders, amongst them Lebanese, have promised a more sustainable world for future generations. A question may pop to mind, how is the Lebanese government approaching this agenda? Knowing that sustainable development includes health, poverty, environmental protection, education, and many other things. Hence, this article will throw light on the many issues arising from the role of the Litani River as a source of achieving sustainable energy and, sustainable agriculture in Lebanon.

Some people wonder how natural wonders are destroyed, and how God’s gift can be turned into a curse. As a matter of fact, cancer patients in Lebanon are on the rise[1], infections are spreading, and climate change is affecting our lives.

The Litani River is one of the pillars of the Lebanese State; it is one of the most important natural resources found in the country. The river is 172KM2 length and is managed by the Litani River Authority (LRA).[2] The LRA is a public institution with financial and administrative independence, and one of the few public institutions with no debt.[3] The authority was established in 1954 and has been managing the river ever since.[4] It supports three electro- hydro plants, generating almost 12% of the Lebanese electricity as well as irrigation projects in the South and West of Lebanon along with hundreds of orchards and farms where most of our fruits and vegetables grow.[5]

The river and its streams have been neglected for years, by people, institutions, municipalities, and the government. Climate change is affecting the country in general, year after year underground water is decreasing[6], and global warming and temperatures are increasing[7]. Furthermore, raw sewage is being dumped into irrigation channels and discharged in the river directly[8], solid and liquid wastes are thrown on the river’ banks causing the water quality to deteriorate. Fruits and vegetables are being nourished with polluted water. Rampant pollution is posing an immense threat to people’s health, and the environment.

Till 2018, three years after adopting the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, environmental issues in addition to their health consequences have shown the poor planning of the Lebanese government. The new Chairman of the board of the LRA, Doctor Sami Alawieh, has been instrumental in fighting pollution and polluters since his appointment in 2018. He is warning industries and municipalities who are suspected of polluting and filing lawsuits against polluters, forcing many of them to cease and desist. The Lebanese parliament had issued the “water law” number 77/2018 with its main goal to ensure sustainable development to the Lebanese water resources. Furthermore, environmental associations are helping by raising awareness through social media and exercising pressure on polluters. In addition, with the Chairman triggering the initiative, a governance system that includes water police with the ability to fine on spot is being established.

Notwithstanding, the Lebanese government is neglecting many aspects of the sustainable development in the country such as discharging raw sewage through pipelines in the sea and dumping wastes in sanitary landfills as well as burning them.[9] Saving the Litani river isn’t enough to conserve the environment and protect people’s health. Necessary measures shall be considered in many fields. As it is said, one hand isn’t enough, it takes two hands to clap.

 

[1] Shi Yinghun, `Cancer patients in Lebanon “on the rise”: health minister’ Asia&Pacific http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-09/21/c_137484245.htm accessed 9 March 2019

[2] Office National du Litani – Jubile d’Or 1954 – 2004

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] MoE/UNDP, `assessment of groundwater resources of Lebanon’

[7] MoE/UNDP/GEF (2015). Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change: A First Look. Beirut, Lebanon.

[8] Darine Geara, `State of art about water uses and wastewater management in Lebanon’ Lebanese science journal Vol. 11(2), 2010

[9] Ismail Abbas, `Solid waste management in Lebanon: challenges and recommendations’ journal of environment and waste management Vol. 42(2) 2017

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