Bassam Alkantar

According to a newly published report titled The Way Forward to Safeguard Water in Lebanon: National Water Integrity Risk Assessment, “Lebanon’s water resources are under stress from a growing population, rapid urbanisation, economic growth, mismanagement of water, pollution, climate change, and ineffective water governance.” The report was issued by the Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Program at the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs. The report provides an overview of the challenges to water integrity in Lebanon and recommends several initiatives to achieve it.

The Aub’s “Climate Change and Environment Program” aims to understand the climate change and environment policy process in the region and define the most appropriate policy recommendations by linking development in applied sciences on issues related to climate change and environment to social sciences. The objective of the program is to develop capacities of various water sector stakeholder groups at different governance levels to improve transparency, accountability and participatory practices in water management in the MENA region.

Sufficient water supply until 2035

An average year in Lebanon yields about 2,700 million m³ of water while annual demand ranges between 1,473 and 1,530 million m³ per year. Thus, theoretically the available water should exceed the needs of Lebanon until the year 2035. In 2010, the Ministry of Energy and Water estimated Lebanon’s annual available water per capita from renewable sources at 926 m³, which is lower than the widely used international benchmark of 1,000 m³. The ministry also projected that by 2015, the individual share will drop to 839 m³ when accounting for population growth but not the influx of refugees.

Mismanagement and lack of integrity

The water problem in Lebanon is not that of availability of water, as much as it is related to the mismanagement and lack of integrity in the sector’s practices. The work presented is a unique assessment of the level of integrity within the water sector and its management apparatuses in Lebanon. The report starts by identifying the stakeholders and institutions of the water sector in Lebanon, as well as the existing integrity processes in the country, before examining the state of good governance practices and the associated values. The assessment then delves into identifying risks of water integrity in the country from information collected from more than 60 semi-structured interviews with the majority of stakeholders. The assessment concludes by proposing some policy recommendations.

Key Conclusions from the Report

– The current regulatory system is in need of improvements, and continuous political willingness is fundamental to tackle these integrity risks.

– Anti-corruption measures are lagging behind and a huge effort needs to be made for its incorporation in the country’s system, specifically by having an anti-corruption strategy which would help in developing clear accountability mechanisms and transparent procedures.

– It is crucial to implement anti-corruption measures together with any kind of legislative reform. The central effort and goal would be to rebuild the lost trust between the public institutions and the Lebanese citizen.

– Other recommendations: Review the Illicit Enrichment law; create an E-government, ensure transparency through an online tracking system within the procurement procedures and recruitments in public institutions.

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