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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

Divise Waters

Christèle Allès

Texte intégral

1Since the independence, the Lebanese authorities have regularly called upon the unity of all citizens behind their water resources. The discourse of the Ministry of Energy and Water, which subtitled the National Water Sector Strategy: “A right for every citizen, a resource for the whole country”, testifies to this. Yet, signs of conflict frequently appear. The implementation of large-scale hydraulic projects triggered major disputes between local communities, environmental associations and the central State. The new power distribution promoted by the water reform has not been immune to tensions either. When it comes to water management, unity in Lebanon can mostly be found in the approach of the issue of shared transboundary waters, especially in front of Israel’s hegemonic attempts over the waters of South Lebanon.

Land and management-related conflicts

2The projects implemented by the Lebanese State regarding land-use planning and water management lead to many conflicts. Defended by the Ministry of Energy and Water as the best solution to the irregularity of the rainfall, dams are systematically subject to mobilizations of the civil society, especially of environmental associations like IndyAct, Green Line, or Lebanon Eco Movement. Their discourse questions the efficiency of such facilities (highly permeable soil, waste of the already exploited resources, existence of cheaper alternative solutions) and emphasizes the damage this type of infrastructure may cause to the environment (destruction of local ecosystems, groundwater pollution) and to the local population (increasing seismic risk, expropriations).

3The institutional reorganization of the water sector is itself subject to the resistance of some local committees in charge of water management. Composed of inhabitants and often closely linked to local powers, about thirty of them have refused to transfer their prerogatives in compliance with the reform and have kept on supplying the population at a rate that is far lower than the one applied by the water establishments. These defiant committees have particularly been in force in the Akkar and Bekaa Valley, which have been underequipped in terms of drinking water supply networks. But a similar situation may be found in some urban centers located in Mount Lebanon, such as Damour or Deir el-Qamar, where the municipalities, which installed the water supply networks, have refused to transfer them to the Water Establishment. Negotiations about the subscription fee or the improvement of the service have led to the dissolution of some of these committees but conflicts have remained open elsewhere and the establishments along with the Ministry have sued the challenging committees.

Figure VI-13: Invitation to a meeting of the “No Dam” campaign against the construction of the Qaysamani dam.

Figure VI-13: Invitation to a meeting of the “No Dam” campaign against the construction of the Qaysamani dam.

(© No Dam, 2015; translation: “The Qaysamani Dam: problems and solutions”, Hammana, 06/10/2010)

Sharing transboundary waters

4Lebanon is located upstream in three major transboundary watersheds (the Orontes, the Nahr el-Kebir and the Hasbani-Wazzani). If one adds to this the groundwater, it may be estimated that 20 to 25% of the country’s water resources flow beyond its borders.

5While the sharing of water resources with Syria was sorted out between 1972 and 2002, the case of the Hasbani River, a tributary of the Jordan River watershed, still needs to be solved. An American plan dating back to 1954, the Johnston Plan, is usually used as a reference for the sharing of the water resources in this area but no official agreement between Lebanon and Israel has ever been found in a context of recurrent conflicts between the two countries. Despite its location in the upstream portion of the watershed, Lebanon only uses a very small amount of water. Indeed, up until 2000, the sources of the Hasbani and the Wazzani Rivers were located in the area occupied by Israel in the South of the country. Since the Israeli withdrawal, some projects have been launched on the Lebanese side (a pumping station on the Wazzani River, among others) but they have been subject to bomb threats made by the Israeli government. Israel tacitly only authorized the supply of water to a few municipalities and the development of irrigation in the area remains unlikely for now. The Israeli dissuasive power in this region, combined with the continuous occupation of the Chebaa farms and the Syrian Golan Heights, ensures that the Hebrew State keeps control over the main sources located on the higher parts of the Jordan River.

Figure VI-14: The disputed waters of the Hasbani-Wazzani river

Figure VI-14: The disputed waters of the Hasbani-Wazzani river

Figure VI-15: Transboundary waters in Lebanon

Figure VI-15: Transboundary waters in Lebanon

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-13: Invitation to a meeting of the “No Dam” campaign against the construction of the Qaysamani dam.
Crédits (© No Dam, 2015; translation: “The Qaysamani Dam: problems and solutions”, Hammana, 06/10/2010)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13292/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 436k
Titre Figure VI-14: The disputed waters of the Hasbani-Wazzani river
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13292/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 98k
Titre Figure VI-15: Transboundary waters in Lebanon
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13292/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 65k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2019

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