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Sewage Plan

The Sewerage file

The sanitation file is considered to be one of the urgent files. Treating the leachate in Lebanon is crucial for the conservation of the country’s fresh water sources and its strategic stock of groundwater, as well for preventing the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

It is known that most sewerage projects in Lebanon are random and incomplete. The majority of the sanitary systems are not connected to refineries and most of these refineries did not conclude their networks yet. This leads to pollution in seas, waterways, rivers, and valleys. The responsibility of monitoring this file is spread and distributed to several governmental authorities that have, between the, power conflicts (water institutions, municipalities, Ministry of energy and Water, Ministry of Environment, CDC, etc.).

 

Sewage Plan

The Ministry of Energy and Water, according to its report in 2010, established a sewage plan which essentially intends to collect and treat 80% of the sanitary water (sewage) by the year 2015 and 95% by the year 2020. The plan also aims to increase the use of refined and purified water from 0% in the year 2010 to 20% in the year 2015 and 50% in the year 2020.

 

The Ministry suggested “five initiatives” to be implemented in order to reach the objectives of the plan:

 

First, perform a comprehensive investment program that includes a table of priorities for the collection, treatment, and reuse of leachate. The Ministry pointed out in this clause that it will play a leading role in obtaining the necessary funds, in cooperation with the CDC, the water institutions, and the private sector. These investments defined according to the priorities, concern a short-term plan that will lead to the conclusion of the existing treating centers and to the increase of the number of networks that transport leachate to the existing centers.

 

The facts:  This clause, as published, is general and wide. It needs to be clarified in order to explain the strategies that will be used to implement it.

 

Second, legal and regulatory measures to control the sector: the report mentioned that the new water law, on which the Ministry is focusing all its effort on, will include the basis and standards to organize the sanitary sector.

 

The facts: issuing a new water law in Lebanon and creating a new legal framework for the control of the water sector is vital. All the hard work and all the effort put by the Ministry of Energy and Water to organize this sector is acknowledged. 

 

Third, institutional measures to define responsibilities and to create the ability to provide service: this includes the desire to develop water institutions and to cooperate with the private sector and municipalities in order to operate and maintain the treatment centers.

 

The facts: the development and activation of these institutions is an environmental necessity for the country in order to improve the management and control of fresh water (which quantities are declining as the population number boosting). The capabilities and levels of efficiency of these water institutions depend on the quality and quantity of their participants and subscribers to their services which will, consequently, influence their financial situation. These institutions are also affected by the particularities of the regions they serve and the human and logistic resources available in them. The majority of these institutions suffer from political interference and, therefore, their potential development will vary from one to another. Most of them also suffer from a lack of workers. Experiences regarding the privatization of some of their services led to significant misuse of their resources and the existence of favoritism (political appointments).

 

Fourth, the necessary financial measures to guarantee the sustainability and continuity of services at a moderate cost: this clause highlights the enforcement of the principle “the polluter pays”.  However, in the absence of laws and government institutions to reinforce it, the state faces the problem concerning the collection of dues from the beneficiaries in the regions, which in turn, is closely related to the level of the government’s presence in these locations and the efficiency of its systems.

 

Fifth, initiatives to expand the participation of the private sector: it has been clearly pointed out in this clause the possibility of signing contracts with companies in accordance to BOT contracts, which constitutes the best alternative to guarantee the funding and operation of such projects. However, the question is: will companies be interested in financing projects which have no guaranteed revenue income in regions that lack the government’s presence?

 

 

Financing the project

Total expenses required to complete the funding of the plan established by the Ministry of Energy and Water sums up to 22,000 million US Dollars. The monetary resources available are 908.61 million US Dollars. Obtaining the total sum of 22,000 million US dollars from the state budget during five or ten years to finance the plan is uncertain due to the instability of the public budget and due to political conflicts concerning quotas and power struggle influenced by the strong divisions present in the country. In addition, if such funds were to be guaranteed in the budget, would the Minister be able to track, monitor, manage, and control the execution of all these projects, amid its lack of staff and resources?

 

Most probably Lebanon will have to, sooner or later, turn to soft loans and foreign grants in order to implement the plan. It is known, however, that the subject of foreign financing is related to homogeneity between Lebanon and the International Community which is, in fact, the bigger issue in current circumstances.

 

Furthermore, the current choice of turning to the private sector or to local financial markets to finance government’s projects is an expensive alternative which promotes corruption and political influences on the administration. The reduction of the government’s authority, its difficulty to implement laws and resolutions, and the diminishing rights entitled to protect local investors, oblige them be depend on associations and partnerships with political authorities.

 

Minister Bassil’s plan is ambitious, urgent, and necessary in order to protect the sea and Lebanese water resources. It is impossible, however, given the current situation, to fully fund it, hence the need to adjust it taking into consideration current facts and circumstances.

 

Source: Lebanon Environment and the Year 2010 report, prepared by Mazen Abboud & Aseel Takshee

 

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