The challenges of water and sanitation in Lebanon
My name is Ibrahim El Lahham, and I am from Lebanon. I had been working in the water and sanitation sector for the past nine years with various humanitarian agencies in countries including Malawi, South Sudan, Kenya and Lebanon. Currently I am pursuing an MSc in Water and Sanitation for Development.
From my previous working experience, I’ve seen that the water sector is crucial for the economic development and prosperity of countries. Water is integrated into every aspect of our day-to-day life, and it is important for our wellbeing, health and dignity. I also wanted to align my professional experience with the excellent academic knowledge that Cranfield University brings to its students.
The primary water and sanitation challenges facing Lebanon are poor governance, corruption, and overpopulation in refugee areas.
Lebanon was known to have an abundance of water. However, due to poor governance, many water bodies are contaminated and the majority of sewage is dumped into the sea.
That had been exacerbated by the current economic crisis facing Lebanon, which has been classified as one of the worst financial crises globally in the past 150 years. This has led to a significant cut in expenditures for the water and sanitation sector as a whole.
Refugees in Lebanon, which comprise around 24 % of the population, are facing the most severe challenges relating to access to water and sanitation due to government policies and increased stress on services in localities with high refugee populations that exceed the current systems’ capacities.
As a result of reduced water availability and changes in precipitation patterns, several water bodies in Lebanon have faced increased contamination, worsening the situation faced by the water and sanitation sector. Moreover, reduced snow cover and changes in weather patterns, caused by climate change, have further reduced the amount of available water for human use. Increased temperatures have also led to higher demand for water, placing greater pressure on the already-stressed water and sanitation services. All of these challenges are already impacting Lebanon but will have additional negative impacts on the country’s public health and overall wellbeing in the upcoming years if climate change isn’t addressed globally.
Priority areas for actions in the water and sanitation sector are addressing corruption issues and ensuring that the water sector is properly governed and managed in a transparent way. Corruption can be addressed through the enforcement of laws, as well as ethics messaging to make officials aware of the harm corruption is causing to all sectors. Additionally, the water, energy, and environment sectors are closely linked thus, their integration should also be a priority. An integrated plan governing these sectors will not only improve the existing water and sanitation situation, but will also contribute to reduced emissions, improved air quality and saved lives. For example, given the severe financial crisis in Lebanon, water companies must continue investing in greener and sustainable energy sources. This can be achieved through solar and wind energy, which have been proven to be cost effective in the long run.
I have learned a lot studying here at Cranfield. The topics taught and the way assignments are designed have improved my technical knowledge as well as my analytical and writing skills.
I will also be bringing the knowledge that I gained in systems thinking and behavioural change back home to try to challenge the existing system there. I believe that we need to tackle environmental and water issues with a clear understanding of the overall setup governing the water and environmental sectors to be able to defragment challenges existing within the systems. This has to be followed by the creation of ownership toward the planet through behavioural change to be able to reduce our energy consumption, waste creation and ensure efficient resource use. With that in mind, Cranfield University had put significant effort into enhancing our system thinking and critical analysis.
I am optimistic about the future of sustainable water given all of technical advancements achieved through research, as well as all of the awareness about climate change that has been built globally during recent years. We are all sensing that climate change at this moment has had massive impacts on our lives and our quality of life through degrading air quality, severe weather patterns and disrupting the balance in nature. Such impact had already triggered some actions to address climate change, and in turn address its impacts on water systems as well. I believe we are more aware now on carbon impact and its negative consequences on water systems and the environment.
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