Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lebanon skeptical of 'save water' effort

Sophie Cousins in  Plastered across billboards, flashing across television screens, and splashed on pamphlets and stickers, a new message is suddenly everywhere you look in Lebanon: "If you love me, save me some water."

This year, in an attempt to mitigate a growing water crisis, the Ministry of Energy and Water has encouraged people to turn off their taps and conserve precious drops. But according to Lebanon’s National Water Sector Strategy (NWSS), which was adopted by the government in 2012, only approximately 10 percent of water connections in Lebanon are metered, meaning that the overwhelming majority of people pay the same rate, regardless of how much water they use.

So as people in Beirut continue to hose down sidewalks, wash their cars, take long showers, and flush their stairwells instead of mopping, the awareness campaign has left many wondering: What’s the incentive?

"A lot of the time we don’t have any water at my [vegetable] shop anyway, so why would I save water when I pay the same rate per year?" said Fadi Hammoud, a shopkeeper in the affluent neighbourhood of Achrafieh in east Beirut. "This all comes down to government mismanagement and, really, without a proper government, what are we meant to do? Water and electricity issues have long been a problem for us."

The lack of metering also gives no incentive for "water establishments to increase water supply or spend more on operation and maintenance... as water deliveries generate no extra revenue", according to the Water Sector Assistance Strategy for 2012-2016, published by the World Bank...

Qaraoun Lake in Lebanon, public domain photo by Fouad Awada

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