Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot.  Have you ever thought about the water wealth that we are famous for, and wonder what we do with it? Indeed, we have 12 rivers in Lebanon that go into the sea, which is a rarity in the Arab world. Yet, we use them as garbage dumps or sewers. Take a look.

 Yup. We did that. Through individual pollution and poor waste management, we did that. We pride ourselves on being educated, classy, sophisticated, and exposed, but we did that.

Nor is it the only image of our poor polluted rivers. Why don’t we take a look at our famous Litani river.

That green is not a good sign. The river is covered with algae and plankton; the water isn’t even moving. We have turned the river into a natural sewer. It got this way through poor waste management. Fertilizers and pesticides contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, as does raw sewage. Without proper waste management systems, these pollutants seep into our rivers and  groundwater resources. Once in the rivers, these chemicals induce an excessive growth of algae and plankton, which choke up the waterway. This leads to the collapse of the river’s natural ecosystem.

The Litani isn’t the only river affected with this problem. As a whole, Lebanon’s rivers are choked with raw sewage, garbage, e-coli, and coliform when they could easily be a source of usable and potable water. Lebanon, these rivers used to be freshwater rivers that our ancestors used to DRINK out of! Now, our contaminated rivers are both a source of disease and pollution that affect us and our marine life. Nor does this pollution stop at the level of our rivers. Our aquifers, rivers, seas and oceans are inter-connected. Practically, this means that polluted water mingles with non-polluted water. Translation: all of our water is polluted.

 Guess what’s being done to ameliorate this problem?

Nothing.

The solutions to this problem are clear. We need to regulate use of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides and treat wastewater. At the level of the individual, we also need to stop throwing our garbage into our rivers. However, this story is about to get worse.

We do not have a single functioning wastewater treatment plant. Yet, we have the facilities. Wastewater treatment plants have been built. In fact, there is even one located next to the Qaraoun dam on the Litani. However, none of these wastewater plants are  functional.

Realistically, there are two causes for this: the budget for their maintenance isn’t there, and/or there is a lack of coordination as to which government agencies are responsible for their maintenance. The waste water treatment plants fall under the care of the Ministries of the Environment, Water & Energy, the Council for Development and Reconstruction, and the individual municipalities where the plants are located.  That’s far too many, and leads to inefficiency. Clearly.

My fellow Lebanese, this problem has devasting effects on us. This pollution poisons our water and our food, and our health suffers because of it. After all, farmers use this water to irrigate their crops, and we eat these vegetables and fruits. Economically, because of this pollution, our agricultural exports are being returned back into the country. Lebanese vegetables and fruits are no longer marketable. In addition, this pollution decreases the level of water available for our use, be it for drinking water, agriculture, or industry. Long story short, we are becoming both poorer and sicker because of water pollution.

Are we happy to just sit back and let this happen?! Although there are laws that forbid this pollution of our rivers, the Minister of Agriculture admitted in July 2011 that there are no government offices that enforce this law or supervise waste water treatment. For more on this story, click here: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Health/2011/Jun-23/Lebanons-lack-of-water-treatment-poses-health-risk-AUB-professor.ashx#axzz1XWMyaokz

 It’s time for us to advocate for these waste water plants to become functional. We need to push for our government agencies to sort this out and and open these facilities, clean our water, and protect our welfare. In addition, we need to push for enforced environmental regulations as to the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used in farming, and to supervise wastewater management. This could be a tough battle, but the chemotherapy that we’d need to treat the cancer that these polluted rivers cause would be tougher. So let’s get together and fight  for ourselves and our environment. We can do it, Lebanon!!    

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