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«Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water Security in the Levantine Middle East Mari Luomi (editor) Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water ...»

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FIIA REPORT 25/2010 71 The most ecologically sustainable way to save the Dead Sea would be to rehabilitate the Jordan River, but since Jordan in particular is relying heavily on the project’s by-products, water and electricity, the Red-Dead venture is unlikely to be dropped from the agenda, unless proven unfeasible or too expensive. The environmental and water security risks posed by seismic activity, and the possible contamination of aquifers because of saline water leaks are substantial, not to mention the possibility of harming or even destroying the unique ecosystems of the respective seas. An ecologically more sustainable, less risky and less costly strategy for Jordan would be to give priority to wide-scale water-saving schemes both in agriculture and households, reducing non-revenue water by improving the water infrastructure, and controlling illegal water abstraction and introducing feasible water tariffs in order to change people’s water consumption. These measures would need to be supported by smaller supply-side measures, developing wastewater reuse and importing virtual water.

Another open question is whether the Red-Dead project will promote cooperation or sow the seeds of additional tensions between the parties involved. While Jordan seems determined to go through with the project, even unilaterally, the extraction of water from shared resources might lead to conflicts between the region’s increasingly water-poor countries. Given the conflict-torn history of Israel and Jordan, mutual suspicions towards getting involved in such a megaproject are understandable. This applies even more to the Palestinians, who have lived under Israeli occupation for over 60 years. The probability of skirmishes arising from any future joint projects would be high. Still, there is hope for the much-needed cooperation to deepen, even though the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which resumed in September 2010, were at the time of writing at risk of being suspended before the parties really got down to business. Perhaps coming to terms with the fact that cooperation with one’s neighbours would be helpful, if not necessary, in tackling the challenges posed by climate change and increasing water insecurity might encourage the parties to reach agreement on high politics issues such as borders and refugees’ rights as well.

72 FIIA REPORT 25/2010Kirsti Krogerus

5 The management of water

resources in Syria and Lebanon:

shortcomings and challenges This chapter discusses the current state of evaluating, planning and governing water resources in Syria and Lebanon and offers some recommendations for the future. It is pointed out that not only external factors, such as population growth, increasing water demand and climate change, but also the chronic mismanagement of water resources, pose mounting problems for the water supply in these two countries. First, the chapter discusses the monitoring and evaluation of water resources and argues that they appear to be inadequate for planning purposes. Planning the use and protection of water resources, also analysed in the chapter, seems to differ in the two countries, although the need to develop integrated water resources management is common to both. Finally, an analysis of waterrelated governance structures shows how water administration and jurisdiction are, on the one hand, convoluted and overlapping in both Syria and Lebanon and, on the other hand, centralized, especially in Syria, thereby hindering the enforcement of legislation and the management of water resources.

The uneven water scarcities of Syria and Lebanon

In Syria, water resources vary a great deal spatially. In the dry Badia region, rainfall may be less than 200 mm per year, while precipitation on the mountains can be over 1000 mm per year. The annually available amount is about 16 billion m³ per year. The figures differ depending on the source, but they all speak volumes about water scarcity.164 In recent years, as a result of a negative water balance, groundwater levels have receded, several springs have dried up

164 Personal correspondence; Barnes, ‘Managing the Waters’.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 73 and a large number of rivers have become seasonal or converted to wastewater canals. In many areas, especially near Damascus, the groundwater is polluted, and fields lie abandoned as a consequence of water shortages. It is estimated that due to climate change, water requirements for agriculture will further increase while productivity decreases.165 Lebanon is rich in water when compared to Syria. The mean annual rainfall varies significantly, from 200-600 mm in the northern part of the Bekaa Valley to 1000-1400 mm in the mountains. 166 Lebanese water resources are under increasing stress, and in most cases already polluted.167 Climate change is expected to increase temperatures and reduce rainfall.168 The consequences of the diminishing water resources are already visible in the Bekaa valley, characterized as ‘criss-crossed with tribal, sectarian and political fault lines, which water scarcity can easily provoke’.169 A reduction in the amount of water and increased exploitation would have an influence on the groundwater in particular.170 Undesirable metals and contaminants in springs would become more concentrated and an increase in salinity would spoil the coastal groundwaters.171 In both Syria and Lebanon, population growth and rising standards of living are already major factors influencing water scarcity and security. The mismanagement of water resources, namely illegal pumping and lack of proper wastewater disposal and recycling, not 165 Yousef Meslmani and Muhammad Fadel Wardeh, Strategy and Action Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change in Syria (2010) (Damascus: Ministry of State for Environment Affairs, UNDP, 2010), p. 19.





166 K. J. Sene, H. A. Houghton-Carr, A. Hachache, ‘Preliminary flood frequency estimates for Lebanon’, Hydrological Sciences. Journal, 46 (5) (2001) p. 661.

167 Bou-Zeid & El-Fadel, ‘Climate Change and Water Resources’, p. 353.

168 Bassam Jaber, ‘Water pollution in Lebanon: proposed solutions and case studies. Regional conference on water demand management, conservation and control’, Lebanon Proceedings, 26 (2010), p. 221.

169 IRIN news, ‘Climate change and politics threaten water wars in Bekaa’ (1 February 2009), http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=82682. Accessed on 10 September 2010.

170 Lebanese Ministry of Environment, Lebanon’s First National Communication for the UNFCCC (1999).

171 Bassam Jaber, ‘Water pollution in Lebanon’, p. 218.

74 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 to mention the threat of climate change, are likely to worsen the situation.

Inadequate monitoring and evaluation practices Monitoring provides information on the state and quality of water resources essential for understanding the hydrological cycle and pollution processes. It is necessary to become acquainted with the present situation before any forecasts, for example, on climaterelated changes, can be made.

Syria There are seven drainage basins in Syria. The Barada & Awij basin constitutes an important water supply for the capital city, Damascus.172 The drainage basin is located in a karstic173 area, like most of the Syrian groundwater reservoirs, and therefore the aquifer is characterized by high productivity.174 At the same time, the area is very sensitive to pollution, which is a major problem due to the rapidly developing urban areas. The discharge from the Barada basin has diminished since 2002 due to a decrease in precipitation and overpumping from the aquifer in the Ain al-Fijeh and Barada springs.

At the Ain al-Fijeh drainage basin there have been plans to monitor the snow cover by satellite images as one step in a Syrian-German technical cooperation project, which aims to better calculate the water balances.175 The discharge from the Ain al-Fijeh spring, 2-25 m3 per second, is measured manually in a measuring weir on a daily basis. Legislation prohibits the monitoring of the groundwater level 172 INECO Studies and Integration Consulting, Institutional framework and decision-making practices for water management in Syria. Towards the development of strategy for water pollution prevention and control in the Barada River Basin, Greater Damascus area. (INECO, 2009), p. 25.

173 A terrain of limestone characterized by surface hollows, depressions and fissures, collapsed structures, and an extensive subterranean drainage network.

174 A. Al-Charideh, ‘Environmental isotope study of groundwater discharge from the large karst springs in West Syria: a case study of Figeh and Al-sin springs’ Environmental Earth Sciences (26 July 2010), p. 3.

175 Anonymous environmental engineer, Ain al-Fijeh, 16 May 2010.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 75 and quality in the Ain al-Fijeh basin, which is a major hindrance.

Added to this, the mountainous terrain complicates monitoring.

Reliable estimates concerning water availability and use are very hard to obtain. Because the use of water, especially groundwater, is partly illegal, it cannot be measured accurately. Precipitation is measured in villages but not in the mountains. As early as 1990, remote sensing techniques were discussed for defining the hydrological situation of the Damascus area’s groundwater. Nevertheless, to date, there has been no improvement in this direction. Observational data should be the basis for the evaluation, planning, and management of water resources, but many observational networks (and even laboratories) are lacking.176 The governance of water evaluation is highly dispersed. 177 Three ministries are in charge of drinking water analyses and one, namely the Ministry of Irrigation, is in charge of surface water and groundwater analyses, although only surface waters have a comprehensive monitoring programme. The Directorates for Water Pollution Abatement in the river basins, which are under the authority of the Ministry of Irrigation, periodically monitor the quality of surface and groundwaters, too.

Wastewater treatment in Syria is undeveloped. Water pollution is caused by wastewaters that are discharged unpurified into bodies of water or onto the ground. There are quality standards for discharge in the water environment,178 but the permitted standard concentrations of pollution are relatively high. Attempts to purify wastewaters, for example in the town of Adra, located in a new industrial area in northern Damascus, have met with difficulties because of uncontrolled industrial wastewater flow without pre-treatment to the treatment plant.179 176 Khaled Mawed, Imad Al Deen Khaleel, Mohammed Eido, and Imad Al Deen Lahaam, Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation of Climate Sector in Syria (Syria’s initial National Communication to UNFFCCC, Report No.: INC‐SY_V&A_Climate‐En., 2008), p. 45.

177 INECO, Institutional framework, pp. 12-17.

178 Ibid. p. 53.

179 Ibid. p. 29; Fabrice Balanche and Ghaleb Faour, Water Management Programme. Zoning for Ecological Priority Areas. Rural Damascus and Damascus city (GTZ and Syrian Ministry of Local Administration and Environment, 2008), p. 63 76 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Lebanon There are 40 major rivers in Lebanon, about 17 of which are perennial, and over 2,000 springs.180 Despite the seemingly abundant water resources, it is predicted that the country will experience a water deficit within 15 years. On the other hand, flash floods have increased in the northern part of the country, which are also believed to be a consequence of climate change. As in Syria, karstic limestone prevails in the rock foundations, and therefore the non-existent wastewater treatment constitutes a threat to water supplies.

Deficiencies in meteorological and hydrological monitoring, basin characteristics, as well as a lack of data on water demand, hinder the use of advanced methods like hydrological models for evaluation and forecasting purposes.181 Moreover, the civil war severely obstructed data collection, as monitoring was suspended during 1975-1990. The proper evaluation of problems and future trends on a national and regional scale requires improved basic information.

The Lebanese water governance structure is convoluted: four ministries are in charge of monitoring the state of the environment.

Since 2002, regional administration has been unified so that four Regional Water Establishments (RWE) are now responsible for all water and sanitation projects.182 The Ministry of Environment has launched a study to assess the status of national systematic observation networks based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting guidelines to the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The study team recommends the improvement of systematic monitoring from the maintenance and operation of equipment to data reporting. 183 180 Georges Kamar, Lebanon Water Sector Overview (Beirut: Parliamentary Commission on the Environment, Lebanese Parliament, visit of a Finnish group of professionals, May 2010), p. 3; Makdisi, ‘Towards a Human Rights Approach’, p. 372.

181 Anon 2002, Climate Change Enabling Activity (Phase II). Capacity Building in Local and Regional System Observation Networks. Final Report. (Climate Change Enabling Activity Project. UNDP, 2002), p. 29; Bou-Zeid & El-Fadel, ‘Climate Change and Water Resources’, pp. 343-355; Makdisi, ‘Towards a Human Rights Approach’, pp. 381-382.

182 Kamar, Lebanon Water Sector Overview.

183 Anon, Climate Change Enabling Activity, p. 10.

–  –  –

Management of water resources lacks comprehensive planning The planning of water resources is based on knowledge of the target area as well as the needs of the stakeholders. The planning process should be participative. The goal of the process is to discover measures that fulfil the population’s needs without spoiling the resources.

This is challenging in countries like Syria and Lebanon where water resources are locally overexploited.



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