During a one-week visit to Lebanon in September 2014 to assess Lebanese water security, water experts from the Dutch Risk Reduction (DRR ) team found that although suitable water strategies and institutions were in place, the overall political stagnation and lack of public awareness have strongly contributed to water scarcity in Lebanon.
At the request of the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water, three Dutch experts visited Lebanon in 2014 with the aim of conducting meetings with the main stakeholders in the Lebanese water sector, including ministries, water establishments, IFIs, donors., and NGO s. They also visited the country’s Bekaa Valley. The DRR team detailed its findings in a comprehensive 30-page report, the final version of which was handed by H.E Hester Somsen to H.E. Arthur Nazarian, the Minister of Energy and Water, in April 2015.
Political stalemate is a major problem
The main conclusion of the mission was that the overall stagnation in Lebanese politics is preventing the development of adequate responses to the needs in the water sector, including those related to water scarcity. General water sector strategies, policies, and institutions are in place, but the political steps needed for effective implementation are not being undertaken. An example is the time that it takes to adopt a new water code. There is no critical lack of expertise in the water sector and the main issues have been well analyzed and documented by the sector and by IFIs, donors, and other international partners.
Regional water authorities have been established as the service providers for drinking water, wastewater treatment, and irrigation. It is important that these establishments be allowed to develop further into entities that can operate autonomously, with the application of userpays principles.
Raising public awareness
The availability of reliable data is an issue that is seriously hampering the development and implementation of adequate policies. Initiatives such as the development of a Water Atlas by the Ministry of Energy and Water and the establishment of a Water Centre for Training and Information are steps towards addressing these issues. It is recommended to begin with annual or bi-annual reports on trends in water resources, service delivery, and progress in the implementation of strategies and investment plans. In general, increasing awareness and changing the attitude towards water as a precious public good is a prerequisite for the implementation of effective policies in the Lebanese water sector.
How the Netherlands can help Lebanon
The mission looked into areas where the Dutch water sector can be of specific value to the Lebanese water sector. According to the Dutch mission, such areas include institutional strengthening of water authorities, industrial wastewater treatment technologies, artificial recharge/small-scale water storage, and agricultural precision technologies. The Dutch government has various “trade and aid” instruments to facilitate private sector investments, infrastructure development, and public-private partnerships that are of interest to the water sector.
However, many of these instruments are restricted to selected countries. Because of its income level, Lebanon is not among these countries. From the mission’s perspective, the impact of water scarcity, coupled with the impact of the Syrian crisis, could be grounds for reconsidering the possibility of offering “trade and aid” assistance to Lebanon.