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News Lebanon: Reduced rain window threatens water crunch

Lebanon faces great changes if average temperatures rise 2-4 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, as most climate change models forecast.

According to Wael Hmaidan, executive director of IndyACT, The League of Independent Activists, climate change in the Middle East will affect Lebanon first. “The distribution of rain has changed; the snow density is decreasing and forest fires are spreading,” he said.

Lebanon’s average annual rainfall exceeds 800 million cubic metres (mcm), helping to sustain more than 2,000 springs during the seven-month dry season, the envy of more arid regional countries such as Iraq and Jordan.

But this is changing. “Twenty years ago we used to reckon on 80-90 rainy days a year in Lebanon. Today we forecast 70 rainy days,” said Bassem Jaber, an expert on water from the Implementation of Technical Tools for Water Management (MOTGE) at the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water.

It is not the amount of rain that is changing, said Jaber, but the period in which it falls: “With the same amount of rain, but in a shorter period of time, it cannot seep into the soil. Instead it runs along the ground and washes into the ocean where it is lost. On its way it causes soil erosion, landslides and flash floods. This eventually leads to desertification.”

This change in Lebanon’s weather could, according to IndyACT’s Hmaidan, spell disaster for the country: “Lebanon’s only natural resources are its fair weather, forests and water. The country’s economy is based on tourism, which depends on these resources. If they go, so will Lebanon’s economy.”

The government has plans to build up to 28 surface and subsurface dams over the next 10 years, aiming to capture up to 900 mcm of fresh water.

At an estimated cost of US$2.5bn to $3bn, the plan has been criticized by some activists as too costly and damaging to wildlife. IndyAct is working on an alternative plan focused on better use of current resources.

But Fadi Comair, director-general of Hydraulic and Electric Resources at the Ministry of Energy and Water, insists dams may be the only answer to Lebanon’s climate change problem. 

Contact information Irin News - © IRIN 2009.
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information Irin News - © IRIN 2009.
Keyword(s) water crunch, drought, climate change, rain, desertification
Geographical coverage Lebanon
News date 13/08/2009
Working language(s) ENGLISH