By Simona Sikimic

EIRUT: Water experts from across the Arab world gathered in Beirut Tuesday for a three-day intergovernmental meeting set to discuss legal frameworks monitoring water redistribution and management.

“The situation in Lebanon is rather favorable in comparison to its neighbors … but Lebanon must nonetheless take care of its resources and trans-boundary aquifers here, so one has to talk to other countries such as Syria and Jordan,” said Hans-Joachim Kumpel, president of German geological advisory group BGR.
BGR, in collaboration with the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), is presently conducting an inventory of detailed groundwater resources, shared between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. However, while the survey is seen as key in formulating national policy on water sharing, the issue is regarded as “politically sensitive” and it is not known when the results will become public.

“Geology doesn’t have boundaries,” said Franca Schwartz, a head of sub-department at BGR. “Governments interchange all the information that they have and are combining it right now at the meeting.”

Possible legal frameworks, undergoing discussions at the ESCWA-hosted three-day convention, will be vital in helping governments realize their duties, as well as their rights, in terms of water management, the pair told The Daily Star.

Although ongoing political upheaval in Syria and the Arab world as a whole has thus far not inhibited the collaborative work, it remains uncertain whether conclusions from the closed sessions will be disclosed, they added.

Data collection in Lebanon, however, has been exasperated by the lacks monitoring systems, which make it difficult to ascertain how much rain is falling, where and when it is falling, is it causing flooding and how much surface runoff is there.

But while greater care must be taken to preserve and store water, the reality remains far removed various doomsday predictions, which have forecast Lebanon running out of fresh groundwater resources within the next five to 10 years.

“Fresh water is a commodity that is not limited. We will always have rainfall … so it’s not an issue that in 20 years all groundwater will be gone, unless the climate changes dramatically, but the real challenge remains, to harvest the rain,” Kumpel said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 25, 2011, on page 3.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::