BEIRUT: The level of precipitation in Lebanon should be more than enough for the country, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian said Friday, implying that management issues were to blame for recurring shortages. “Lebanon enjoys four times the levels of precipitation that it needs, and even with this citizens still suffer from problems related to water scarcity,” Nazarian said at the launch of the “Way Forward to Safeguard Water in Lebanon: National Water Integrity Risk Assessment” report, organized by the Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Program, at the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.

The minister said availability of renewable water resources per capita in Lebanon was below international standards. He warned that the situation would worsen with the effects of climate change and the pressures caused by the influx of Syrian refugees into the country.

In 2010, the Energy Ministry prepared a national strategy to manage the water sector which was approved by Cabinet in 2012, he said. “Work is [proceeding] to implement this strategy within our limited means, despite the difficult circumstances, including the presidential vacuum and the absence of a budget.”

Nazarian added that implementing the strategy in such trying political times required more effort and also good management from relevant parties in the sector. He highlighted the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability in the management process.

“We see that real participation lies in effective participation within the public sector and also with the private sector and civil society. The coming together of these elements produces wise management strategies,” Nazarian said.

Measures to ensure accountability are key to regulating the water sector, the minister added. These should include punishing individuals who accept bribes, fraud, nepotism and any abuse of power in water distribution.

“A major element in being accountable and fighting corruption is building the knowledge and awareness of citizens and building the capacities of those working in the water sector,” he added.

Nadim Farajallah, faculty research director of the Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Program, explained that the report presented a series of recommendations on several levels that should be adopted to ensure transparency in the water sector. These recommendations also touch on ways to amend the current system.

There are good laws and strategies that can be employed to improve water source management, he said. “However, it was also clear to us that measures to fight corruption are outdated,” Farajallah added.

“The major effort should focus on rebuilding the lost trust between public institutions and the Lebanese citizen,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 16, 2015, on page 3.
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