The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Officials sign pact to study pollution in Lake Qaraoun

- By Abby Sewell

BEIRUT: Officials from the Litani River Authority and the National Council for Scientific Research signed an agreement Monday to study the sources of pollution in the Litani River basin and to develop a plan to address the issue.

The study will in particular focus on Lake Qaraoun, an artificial lake in the Bekaa Valley formed by a dam on the Litani River. The lake is an important source of water for irrigation, the generation of hydropower and other purposes, as well as a planned future source of drinking water for Beirut.

Contaminat­ion of both the river and the lake has been a major source of concern in recent years.

The issue was highlighte­d two years ago by a mass die-off of fish in Lake Qaraoun, which officials said was linked to lack of oxygen in the lake due to pollution.

Also in 2016, the World Bank agreed to give a $55 million loan to help address pollution in the lake, with a focus on improving local sewage networks to reduce the amount of untreated municipal sewage being discharged into the Litani and working with farmers to decrease the use of pesticides and fertilizer in the area.

Ahead of the signing of the agreement between the two organizati­ons Monday, Mouin Hamze, secretary-general of the National Council for Scientific Research, said the matter of solving pollution in the Litani basin is “a moral obligation” and “a national duty.”

Also present at the ceremony was MP Nazih Najm, head of Parliament’s Public Works, Transporta­tion, Energy and Water Committee.

He said that with the study being undertaken, “we will know the details, and how much there are organizati­ons, municipali­ties and factories that are polluting the river.”

Nassim Abou Hamad, head of the Litani River Authority’s water governance department, told The Daily Star the entire river basin will be under study, but with a priority placed on Lake Qaraoun. “This is the biggest lake in Lebanon, this is the biggest reservoir of water in Lebanon,” he said. “I can’t imagine the Bekaa without the lake.”

Abou Hamad said the cooperatio­n between the river authority and the scientific council will be openended, without any defined deadlines for the work, but that officials hope to have initial results to share within months.

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