The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

Search This Blog

August 23, 2016

The Daily Star- Loan to clean up Litani River waits on Parliament, August 23 , 2016

BEIRUT: Despite the July announcement of a $55 million World Bank loan to prevent further pollution to Lebanon’s upper Litani River, no quick fix exists and the blight will likely remain for years to come. The Litani River has made headlines as locals, activists, officials and ministers have begun pushing solutions to the decades-old issue in Lebanon’s longest river. Years of neglect and poor management have left the river a heavily polluted, festering mire that will take years – if not decades – to rectify.
“The pollution load has been increasing year after year, and it’s been happening for a long time,” explained Jihan Seoud of the United Nations Development Program. “The Litani River is highly contaminated, but we cannot put a figure [on it]. We don’t have comprehensive scientific data about the entire river but there was an assessment of water quality in the Qaraoun Lake, and it’s bad.”
Qaraoun Lake is an artificial reservoir formed by a dam on the Litani.
However, access to the funds is not a sure thing given Lebanon’s ongoing political impasse. The World Bank Board of Directors approved the loan on July 14, but the next hurdle may prove hard to overcome – parliamentary endorsement.
“Our concern is that Parliament is not meeting, or meeting very rarely. This is where a possible delay could come. [Approval for the loan] could take a month, six months or a year; it’s really not in the World Bank’s control,” Maria Sarraf, project leader for the World Bank’s Lake Qaraoun Pollution Prevention initiative, told The Daily Star.
However, many remain hopeful that work can press ahead on reducing the sources of pollution.
“If you stop polluting, then at some point the river may eventually clean itself, but that will take a very long time, and for some of the chemical or heavy-metal contamination, treatment of the sediment would most probably need to be done,” Seoud told The Daily Star. “All of these issues can be solved; there’s a technical solution to nearly everything and money is available.”
A major study from 2011 on depollution of Qaraoun Lake and upper Litani, conducted by the Environment Ministry with UNDP support, has already mapped out many of the pressures and causes of the issue. The report also detailed a number of short-, medium- and long-term steps that can be taken to reduce pollution levels.
“There are things that will reduce a source of pressure on the river, and the short-term things are low-hanging fruit; they won’t cost a lot,” Seoud said.
The ministry’s report, coupled with oversight of an interministerial committee formed in 2012, has created a situation in which there is good coordination and a framework for what needs to be done. The challenge now is time and political will.
The report found that the four major sources of pollution in the river are wastewater, agricultural runoff, industrial waste and solid waste. There is also a clear roadmap for reducing these pressures.
The World Bank’s $55 million loan will finance projects addressing pressing issues in wastewater and agricultural runoff along the upper Litani.
“The idea is to gradually reduce the pollution flowing into the river, so we decided to maximize investments already being made,” Sarraf explained. “There is a major wastewater plant in Zahle, so instead of building a new one somewhere else, let us complete all the sewage networks for the plant so that when it is operational it will have a decent amount of sewage running into it. Too often you have a plant and when it’s done there’s no network so isn’t operating.”
Connecting major urban populations in the river’s basin to functioning water-treatment facilities means less wastewater will end up in the river.
However, all too often in Lebanon development projects are built but never work effectively. “Operation is a big issue. We have cases of wastewater plants that are completed but never operate. The water establishments often don’t have the capacity or resources to run them,” Seoud explained.
Sarraf insisted that the World Bank is confident this will not happen in the case of Zahle’s plant – despite its construction being well behind schedule. She explained that financing for the facility – obtained from the Italian government – builds-in operation costs for two years. Coupled with this, the World Bank money will provide for hiring of oversight staff so that when a private contractor takes over the facility, the municipalities, the water authorities and government have the human resources to inspect it.
While the Zahle facility requires large-scale infrastructure, fixing agricultural runoff presents a different challenge. “Agricultural runoff doesn’t take a lot of big investment, but you have to make farmers aware that they overuse fertilizers and pesticides. Here it is more about creating awareness by talking to farmers,” Sarraf said.
One major positive of the World Bank loan is that the Council for Development and Reconstruction – which will be implementing the projects – has been given the green light to spend up to 20 percent of the loan before parliamentary approval.
This means that they can start drawing up detailed project studies for approval, write tenders and start smaller initiatives before being reimbursed by the World Bank. “We want to move as fast as possible and the CDR is moving,” Sarraf said.
A year from now Sarraf said she would like to see proposed projects signed and ratified by Parliament, the agricultural component already ongoing with farmers, and significant progress on Zahle’s water facility. While she said she’s optimistic, both Sarraf and Seoud recognize the structural challenges in Lebanon and expect developments and meaningful progress to take years.

Source & Link : The Daily Star

No comments:

Post a Comment