Lebanon sceptical of ‘save water’ effort
Lebanese campaign to save water amid a shortage is unlikely to work without government regulation, experts say.
By: Sophie Cousins
Beirut, Lebanon – 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.
Nadim Farajalla, associate professor of environmental hydrology at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut (AUB), said that while the campaign is well-intentioned, it is not educational.
“The government has no authority to prohibit wasteful use; [that’s why we need] legislation to allow water establishments and the Ministry of Energy and Water to control water consumption at all levels,” he told Al Jazeera.
“An advertisement campaign asking people to save water without actual instructions as to how to do that is useless. We cannot have financial incentives, as there are no metres at the household level in most areas of Lebanon, thus no one knows how much each household is using or abusing. If you can’t measure it, you can’t tax it.”
However, Randa Nemer, an advisor to Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian, said the campaign was not about financial incentives. “We are not telling people to save water so they pay less or more, the idea of the campaign is for children to tell their parents to save water not only for now, but for the future generation,” said Nemer, adding that she didn’t have exact figures on how much water Lebanon uses annually.
“It’s not about money, it’s about saving water for the coming generation,” she said.
Posted on August 26, 2014, in NEWS and tagged 2014, campaign, drops, effort, experts, farmers, government, lebanese, Lebanon, majority, news, news article, People, percent, rate, regardless, regulation, save, save water, say, sceptical, shortage, sophie cousins, use, water. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.