Pollution poses a serious threat to Lebanon’s longest river
By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem – Appeared first in Globally Today |
Islam News – Beirut – The 140 km long Litani river in Lebanon is suffering from a high degree of pollution due to anarchic exploitation and abuse of water resources. In a recent report, the ‘National Authority of the Litani River’ rang the alarm bell to the Lebanese government.
The once so beautiful Litani River rises in the fertile Beqaa Valley, west of Baalbek, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea north of Tyre, in south Lebanon. The river provides an average annual flow estimated at 920 million cubic meters. Its waters both originate and flow entirely within the borders of Lebanon. It provides a significant source for water supply, irrigation and hydroelectricity both within Southern Lebanon, and the country as a whole.
This Lebanese pearl is under severe threat. Thousands of groundwater wells in the river basin consume the capacity of aquifers through excessive exploitation of the water stored. This has harmed many springs and led to an alarming decline in the groundwater levels. Due to the lack of control and the absence of the rule of law, hundreds of water pumping stations have been established along the river course; these stations contributed to the disappearance of many springs and the deterioration and shrinking of many permanent rivers.
The main pollutants in the Litani are wastewater and other industrial wastes released from the cities and residences into the river courses. Also, effluents and waste released by factories producing agricultural and animal products such as cheese factories, poultry farms and slaughterhouses. In addition the excessive use of pesticides, fertilizers and agricultural medicines which directly contributes to increasing the levels of nitrogen and heavy metals in aquifers.
In June 2019, the National Authority of the Litani River conducted a detailed survey of the lower basin of the river. The survey that more than a million and a half million cubic meters of sanitation are transferred annually to the river directly, while more than three million cubic meters are spent in valleys, sanctuaries and open places and from there end up in the river.
The amounts of liquid industrial drainage were estimated at about 522 cubic meters per day. The rate of liquid industrial drainage is about 65,000 cubic meters annually. Most of which are produced from rocks saws, quarries and crushers.
In the lower basin, there are approximately 111 random dumpsites for solid waste (34 are closed, and 77 remain). These sites receive approximately 255 tons of waste per day and are considered one of the most serious challenges to the water and environmental resources in the lower basin of the Litani River.
In the last quarter of 2019 results of the water, analyzes showed heavy pollution of various segments of the river in which the bacterial standards came over the maximum permissible limits for irrigation water.
Preventive measures have been taken to prevent the drainage of their leachate in the river. According to the Authority of the River, the river’s waters are still not suitable for irrigation and swimming in many locations it is now looking at Lebanon’s troubled government for additional measures and an action plan in which enforcement of environmental measures gets priority.
The Minister of Industry in the Caretaker Government, Wael Abu Faour, stressed on Dec. 29 that his ministry has accomplished the lifting of industrial pollution from the Litani River. He is calling on the various involved municipalities to ‘take their responsibilities in protecting the river’s sanctuary and cooperation to protect what was reached in recent months.”
In August 2019 Abu Faour Industry ordered the closure of more than a dozen noncompliant factories in Baalbeck and the Bekaa Valley as part of a crackdown on businesses that were dumping waste and untreated wastewater into the Litani River basin.
Early December the ministry had temporarily closed 14 factories and industrial plants. Four of the factories were since reopened, having installed treatment machines. In March 2019 a ministerial committee under the chairmanship of the prime minister was formed to follow up on the plan to save Lebanon’s longest river.