Report by Iman Salameh
Translated by Aline Aoun
NNA - The drought crisis and the subsequent changes in the water distribution system due to global warming, which the world has incessantly warned of its consequences and has called for preparations to face future catastrophes, has reached a threat of an alarming loss of water.
Lebanon, a country that enjoys a moderate weather, has been suffering expanding fears of drought. The Lebanese are expected to experience new climatic and environmental factors. The winter season in Lebanon this year was sunny and rarely witnessed rainy days. There was no need to rekindle fire places in March due to the fact that the proportion of rain which fell by the end of March did not exceed half the annual rate.
The state should look for solutions to this issue, especially by spreading awareness about the rational consumption of water to evade falling into the unknown.
Meanwhile, the abnormal summer rain, which had been sparked by climate change and its negative effects, is expected to ruin the agricultural seasons, mainly that of wheat, olive trees and fruit trees.
The Chairman of the Agriculture Department in South Lebanon, expert engineer Hassan Souli, explained the problem and the negative impacts on everything that has to do with water, plants and soil. He pointed out that Lebanon's water wealth had always been in a relatively better condition than that of other countries in the Middle East, which are poor in water.
Lebanon's water rate had exceeded 800 million cubic meters of annual rainfall, which helped maintain more than 2,000 fountains during the dry season, which lasts for seven months.
But the water levels have started to plummet in a manner that raises question marks about the future of Lebanon's water. With the annual decline in the proportion of successive rainfall and its distribution throughout the year, it has touched a dangerous limit during the past two years, particularly this year.
He explained that the amount of groundwater has gravely dropped to reach one third of the amount that was stored last year.
"Based on scientific studies and experts in this field, the number of rainy days has decreased from 90 to 80 days per year in the Mediterranean region 20 years ago while nowadays to 70 days a year," he said.
Souli stressed that the annual decline in the proportion of snowfall and its low density will lead to a decrease in the amount of water that accumulates after snow melts.
He said that the decrease in water level -- due to the lack of rainfall and snow -- would affect the water resources, "this is a scary situation, and this year, Lebanon has began to be influenced by the climate change which will be accompanied by a rise in temperatures, year after year, followed by a rise in the proportion of evaporation of groundwater and falling water.
He stressed that this will increase the demand on water due to the extreme heat, which will lead us to desertation before the middle of this century.
He pointed out that Lebanon would miss in the future its four seasons that distinguish it from other countries due to climate change.
Souli confirmed that the agricultural sector is mostly affected by the drought crisis, followed by the food security.
He pointed that the signs of the crisis have started to emerge in the south through the loss of olives and the seedlings of vegetables before they mature.
"Twenty years ago, farmers were able to get water from wells at the depth of ten meters, but today the depth of wells is between 40 to 100 meters, and therefore, the dwindling water resources will affect the productive agricultural sectors which highly rely on ground water for irrigation in the summer seasons," he asserted.
Souli said that in case rain did not fall, then farmers would have to increase the level of irrigation water, which would burden them with higher costs and a decline in agricultural production, not to mention that plantings would be affected by diseases.
Souli has proposed solutions to preserve Lebanon's remaining water and to spare the environment likely disasters, as much as possible:
- Establishment of ponds and dams for water storage and utilization.
- Monitor the use of groundwater, drinking, agriculture, industry and organize it.
- Establishment of plants for refining waste water that can be used to irrigate crops.
- Increase green spaces.
- Preserve cleanliness of the environment and the safety of living.
- Activate the role of young people and work organizations in the field of environment and forestation campaigns.
- Adopt drought-resistant crops which fit with climate change in Lebanon.
Souli emphasized that the Ministry of Agriculture should work on regular basis:
1 - Provide the necessary pheromones for the fruits of the tomato worm and distribute it to farmers.
2 - Provide (Delfin) material, which is a biological pesticide to combat the worm of the tomato fruit.
3 - Secure mineral oils and pheromone to combat citrus insects.
4 - Provide pheromone material traps to combat the diseases of olives.
He finally stressed that the ministry should follow-up on the phases of these steps on regular basis.