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Nearly $500mn to tackle Lebanon water shortages

World Bank backs huge investment to improve creaking infrastructure

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Lebanon, Shortage, Water, World bank, News

A $474mn World Bank Group project will address the chronic and severe water shortages faced by over half of Lebanon’s population who receive an average of only three hours of water per day and resort to illegal wells, expensive tanker trucks and bottled water for their home use.

The Water Supply Augmentation Project will reverse the impact of drought, depleted infrastructure and rapid population growth on the sustainable development of the water sector.

The Islamic Development Bank and Government of Lebanon will provide parallel financing of $128mn and $15mn respectively.

“This is a national project, of which over 1.6 million people living across the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon area will directly benefit.

An estimated 30% of project beneficiaries live below the national poverty line,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Director of the Middle East Department.

“This project can be a driver in reducing poverty and vulnerability, all the while harbouring a tremendous potential to boost prosperity across Lebanon’s capital area.”

Lebanon’s climate and geography cause significant variations in water availability, with floods common in the winter, followed by droughts in the summer. The country only stores 6% of its water resources, compared to the regional average of 85%.

Rapid urbanization, delayed investment and lagging reforms contributed to further exacerbating the water deficit.

Over the past few years however, increasingly acute droughts coupled with the demand for water from over 1.6 million registered and unregistered Syrian refugees has led Lebanon to a full scale water crisis.

“Lebanon has one of the region’s highest per capita water availability, yet families across the country regularly wonder how they will afford the next tanker truck delivery,” said Claire Kfouri, Senior World Bank Water Specialist and Project Team Leader.

“By providing a regulated source of clean, abundant water directly to households, the project will contribute to reducing the cost of water to users, while also strengthening national agencies’ capacity to implement needed water reforms and protecting the environment.”

The project will finance the construction of hydraulic infrastructure, including the Bisri dam near the existing Joun reservoir, and associated storage to ensure water security to the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon area.

National agencies will benefit from technical assistance in the implementation of international best practices for dam safety, sustainable water resources management and environment/social impact mitigation.

The project will be implemented over nine years to allow for startup work ahead of construction, and two years of operation and maintenance.

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