It is no secret that Lebanon’s water resources are in bad condition. A couple of years ago, two studies showed high concentrations of heavy metals and other dangerous pollutants in the Hasbani River and Lower Litani River Basin. Recently, farmers in South Lebanon complained that the water quality of the Litani River was destroying their crops. Villagers from North Lebanon complained of illnesses spreading due to the increased pollution at the Al-Fawar River and a large number of dead fish were found in the Qaraoun Lake.
The dead fish incident prompted the Minister of Environment to order an investigation into the matter. The discovery of the dead fish happened within the same week the World Bank approves a US$ 55 million loan to clean up the Litani River and the Qaraoun Lake. The main objectives of this project are: “to reduce the quantity of untreated municipal sewage discharged into the Litani River and to improve pollution management around Qaraoun Lake”. The total cost of the project is about US$ 60 million, 92% of which will be covered by the World Bank loan.
There are three components to this project: 1) Improve municipal sewage, 2) Promote good agricultural practices, and 3) Solid waste, water quality monitoring, capacity building and project management. The first component is the costliest and consists of expanding sewage networks to connect to Zahle WWTP, Anjar WWTP, Aitanit WWTP and other WWTP. This will cost $US 55 million. The second component costs around US$ 1.5 million and the third costs $US 3 million.
The Business Plan for Combating Pollution of the Qaraoun Lake, a study commissioned by the UNDP in 2011, found that the two largest negative pressures on the Qaraoun Lake are agricultural and municipal wastewater. Currently, municipal wastewater, agricultural chemicals and non-degradable pesticides are disposed in the lake. This current project aims to prevent these practices and decrease overall pollution.
The third component of the project is particularly important for a country like Lebanon. The monitoring and maintenance of large infrastructure and development projects in the country is weak. The management of the Naameh landfill and the many idle wastewater treatment plants are a testament to the poor operations and monitoring practices.
Many people are skeptical about the amount of money put into this project and the transparency of the way in which it will be spent. However, there is no doubt that Lebanon’s water resources need a cleanup. This project addresses a major problem in Lebanon: wastewater collection and treatment. If implemented properly, it could have a major positive impact on the entire Litani watershed.