Lebanon’s grotesque rivers

An appalling program was aired last night on MTV (Murr TV) Lebanon, showcasing the abominable state of Lebanon’s rivers, which feed the country’s national water distribution system.

The photos above and below were taken at a river near Tripoli. In it, massive mounds of garbage bags melt into the currents producing a toxic brown mix, which is later fed into water plants that supply the city’s tens of thousands of residents.

But Tripoli is not alone. Similarly grotesque river scenes were shown in the south and central mountains, affecting towns and cities across the entire country.

At the source near the famed mountain resort of Faraya, the chalets and mansions of the rich routinely unleash their sewage into rivers that are used to pump water to the hundreds of thousands of households in the villages of Mount Lebanon below, a local official told MTV.

Faraya’s pure spring water is also subject to decrepit local pipe system whereby the spring source water is constantly unleashed into the town’s streets, resulting in the formation of large puddles sloshed through all day by traffic. Thus the once- pure water quickly becomes muddied street run-off before entering the national distribution system. A town official said several complaints had been made to “authorities” but that repairs were repeatedly inadequate and the breakage continues to reoccur.

I salute MTV for airing the hour-long segment which sent camera crews traversing across the country to reveal the grand scale of river degradation. The show also rightly pointed out that although many Lebanese drink bottled water, the country’s poor are forced to drink from the tap at the risk of serious illness.

But the one gapping question missing in this report was ‘why’. Who exactly is responsible for maintaining the water distribution system and what do they have to say about the situation? What problems do these authorities face in regulating water sources? What are their needs and what government funds are they currently receiving?

In the 22 years since the civil war’s end, the Lebanese government has successfully overseen the building of a glitzy airport, 3 sports stadiums and even a shiny city center with cobblestone streets illuminated by lamps made in Paris. How then has it failed to pump potable water to its citizens?