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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

A Proactive Public Policy, Results Still Pending

Christèle Allès

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1Since the end of the Civil War, many projects have been launched in order to improve access to water for the population as well as for agricultural activities while making the management of these services more efficient. However, for now, few concrete results have been observed and the attempts at reforming the sector, which have been conducted under the pressure of international funding agencies, have only rarely led to a real improvement of the service.

An unfinished reform

2During the 2000s, an institutional reorganization of the water sector was implemented. Like many reforms in countries from the “Global South” since the beginning of the 1990s, it was in line with the structural adjustment programs promoted by the World Bank and the IMF. It was aimed at transferring a transnational water management model defined in the more general context of the promotion of sustainable development and “good governance” to Lebanon. It relied on three pillars: decentralization and user participation, integrated management of the water cycle, and full cost-pricing. This reorganization of the water sector was also more generally based on the commodification, even the privatization, of urban water services. Its implementation in Lebanon led to the amalgamation of twenty-one water agencies and numerous local committees into four regional establishments in charge of services supplying drinking water, sanitation and irrigation, all at the same time (except for the establishment of the South).

3Ten years after their creation, none of the above-mentioned principles has really been applied: only the Water Establishment of Beirut and Mount Lebanon is financially self-sufficient, the missions related to sanitation and irrigation have only rarely been transferred to the establishment, prices have increased but the collection rates have remained low. The reform led to many innovative management experiments conducted by actors linked to the international cooperation sector (public-private partnerships, setting-up of monitoring devices, watershed management, participatory management, etc.), most of which have not been successful. Despite the efforts made by the new establishments, their fragility, due to their lack of both financial and human resources, has prevented them from achieving their basic objectives over the whole territory, including the maintenance of the drinking water supply systems.

Figure VI-10: Institutional reform of the water sector

Figure VI-10: Institutional reform of the water sector

The revival of large-scale projects

Figure VI-11: Dams and reservoirs: inventory in 2015

Figure VI-11: Dams and reservoirs: inventory in 2015

4While only one dam had been built in Lebanon between 1954 and the end of the 20th century (the Qaraoun dam), the government reactivated several large-scale hydraulic projects in the 1990’s. They aimed at solving the current and future problems inherent to the supply of drinking water but also at enabling the expansion of irrigated perimeters. Eighteen dams as well as several reservoirs have been planned to improve the storage capacity of surface water. In addition, several large-scale projects based on the diversion of the Litani River dating back to the 1970s have been re-launched at the beginning of the 2000s: the Awail-Bisri project, aimed at providing Beirut with drinking water, and the Canal 800 project, which should ensure the irrigation of 15,000 hectares of land in the South of the country. Only the Chabrouh dam has already been brought into operation. With a capacity of 8 million m3, it only accounts for barely 1% of the total expected reserves. Moreover, these projects have faced strong critics. The ability of the Litani River to cope with these multiple extractions but also the relevance of a supply-side policy in a context where the losses on the network (leaks and frauds) amount to 48% of the produced volumes are all issues that lead one to doubt the efficiency of these new facilities.

Figure VI-12: Large-scale projects on the Litani river

Figure VI-12: Large-scale projects on the Litani river

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-10: Institutional reform of the water sector
Fichier image/png, 166k
Titre Figure VI-11: Dams and reservoirs: inventory in 2015
Fichier image/png, 148k
Titre Figure VI-12: Large-scale projects on the Litani river
Fichier image/png, 110k

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