By Antoine Amrieh

BATROUN: In the mountains of north Lebanon this time of year, visitors encounter the roaring sound of water cascading from the slopes to the valleys as the winter snow melts.

Meanwhile, residents in coastal areas of places like Batroun are encountering the roaring sound of water delivery trucks, and complaining of a shortage in water supplies amid all of the supposed abundance.
While water delivery trucks have become a commonplace sight, a network of pipes to transport water from artesian wells has also taken shape, snaking along electricity poles belonging to Electricite du Liban.

Naturally, this system of transporting water through makeshift pipes could lead to disasters because the equipment is intertwined with electricity cables, and is sometimes installed next to phone lines. When residents recently complained privately to politicians, and publicly through the media, the efforts appeared to pay off.

The businessman responsible for the installations removed the pipes this week from electricity poles, but people living near the plot containing the artesian well continue to complain, as the trucks belch out diesel exhaust, dust, and noise when they fill their tanks.

Artesian wells, which rely on natural pressure to reach water supplies, is located on private property, while deeper wells, drawing on underground sources of water, require a license from the state; the Water Ministry halted the process of filing requests for licenses for these wells several years ago.

The well is a major source of irritation for neighbors.

One woman, who declined to give her name, said the well has been there for decades.

“We know the well is supposed to be used for irrigating this land here, but we have suddenly found ourselves living in an industrial zone – the trucks come and go, around the clock. There’s dust and noise all the time. We’ve lodged several complaints, but with no results,” she said.

She called on caretaker Energy and Water Minister Jibran Bassil to look into the matter.

“If it’s legal, fine. If officials are satisfied with the harm that we’re experiencing, then we’ll stay quiet. But it’s not right for the underground water to be sold with no [control] over the process,” she said.

Sayed Daaboul, who is the investor in question, denied that there were any legal violations involved.

“The license for this exploitation is 60 years old,” he said. “I can use the water for irrigation, and sell the water too, especially since there’s a shortage, and Batroun is suffering from a water crisis.”

“I fill up the trucks, and am free to use the land the way I wish.”

The mayor of Batroun, Marcelino Hirk, told The Daily Star that the municipality has no jurisdiction “when it comes to these types of violations; the Water Authority is the only body that can distribute and sell water.”

Meanwhile, in the mid-altitude areas of the qada of Batroun, residents in around a dozen villages and small towns have been demanding action from the Water Authority as well as from Bassil and the qada’s two MPs, Butros Harb and Antoine Zahra, to help solve the ongoing water shortage crisis.

They say the shortage has lasted for around a year, and doesn’t even let up during the winter months; they blame the North Lebanon Water Authority’s recent faulty installation of pumping equipment to transport the water.

“We’re ready to pay our water bills, but unfortunately we get nothing in return,” is the common complaint.

The residents say that the electricity generators are insufficient to power the pumping operations needed to ensure a steady supply of water, and that the wrong valves have been installed – they are supposed to close off the flow of water in one direction, so that it can be diverted to needy villages, but the process has been bungled.

The residents promise to escalate their protest actions in the future if the crisis isn’t resolved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 16, 2011, on page 3.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::