Saturday, May 15, 2010

BEIRUT: The Italian government agreed on Friday to provide Lebanon with a 1.8-million euro ($2.29 million) grant for the development of a hydrological study.

The agreement was signed by Water and Energy Minister Jibran Bassil, the Italian ambassador to Lebanon Gabriel Kikia, UNDP Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon Marta Ruedas and the president of the Council for Development and Reconstruction Nabil al-Jisr.

The donation aims at improving the management of water resources in Lebanon in addition to launching a Lebanese center for water management and preservation.

Bassil praised the fast and positive response of the UNDP and the Italian government for establishing a center aimed at preserving the proper use of water. “If the cooperation between ministers and governmental institutions continues with this positive attitude, this will solve a lot of issues and we will be able to construct dams in addition to working on the completion of sewage networks,” he said.

Bassil said he hopes to launch an awareness campaign to inform people about the importance of water as a natural resource in Lebanon.

“Penalties should be imposed on those who participate in contaminating Lebanon’s water,” the minister said.

He added that the aim of establishing such a center in Lebanon is to conduct studies about the water situation in the country by focusing on the prevention of polluting the groundwater in addition to coming up with figures on the available wells.

“We are always criticized for not allowing the excavation of wells except when there is a valid reason for that and in areas with available water resources,” he said.

Bassil criticized the lack of relevant studies on the kind and amount of groundwater and surface water.

“Researchers won’t be able to conduct any studies or projects without the availability of scientific data. That’s why we hope that this center draws a water map for Lebanon in order to guide citizens to the proper use of this resource,” the minister added.

For his part, Kikia expressed Italy’s commitment to the exchange of experiences between the two countries.

Kikia also criticized the lack of relevant data about the natural resources in Lebanon which is contributing to the mismanagement of water.

He said that Italy granted Lebanon more than 81 million euros until today to support the environment and water sectors through several activities.

Ruedas announced that a department responsible for all water projects and activities will be established in the ministry of water and energy.

This department, she said, will work in cooperation with the coordination committee in the European Union in order to make sure that all of the water projects taking place in Lebanon are in accordance with the national water strategy that the ministry is working on.