Dams or no dams? The answer lies in a National Water Security Strategy

This OpEd was initially published by the Issam Fares Institute on the occasion of World Water Day and republished by An-Nahar website. It is written by Rana El-Hajj, Manager of the Climate Change and Environment Program, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB. 

BEIRUT: The construction of dams as a solution for water supply problems has always been controversial due to the associated impacts and risks, not only on the environment, but also on local communities.

With the issuance of the 2010 National Water Strategy (NWSS) by the Ministry of Energy and Water (MOEW) this controversy was brought to the forefront in Lebanon. Now that the government seems to be moving forward with the implementation of a number of the planned dams, in locations some consider as sensitive, the public debate between the Ministry from one side, and environmental groups and advocates from the other, has significantly escalated. 

In the NWSS’ roadmap around 18 dams are foreseen within 10 years’ timeline (until 2020), while 46 sites in total were identified as “suitable” for surface water storage. This makes surface water storage as the strategy’s key pillar especially when looking at the estimated capital investment.

The strategy nevertheless did consider, but to a lesser extent, other options such as groundwater recharge, demand-side management, improving technical losses, and non–revenue water.