Lebanon’s border communities grapple with water crisis amid Israeli destruction of pumping projects

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 Lebanon's border communities grapple with water crisis amid Israeli destruction of pumping projects

Dozens of border towns and villages in southern Lebanon are suffering from a severe water shortage as the Israeli army destroyed most drinking water projects, local officials and residents told Xinhua.

   Israel has targeted water projects in the border area of Lebanon since Oct. 8, 2023, with the most recent attacks occurring on Feb. 6 this year. The Wazzani Spring water pumping station project, the largest in the south, was also destroyed in these attacks.

   The right to pump water from the Wazzani, which feeds into the Hasbani River, has been at the centre of a row between Lebanon and Israel since 2002.

   Wazzani Mayor Ahmed Al-Mohammad told Xinhua that the Israeli attacks damaged the water project’s electrical equipment, pumps, and distribution networks, leading to the halt of water pumping to numerous villages and towns in the border area.

   “Israel imposed barriers around the station, preventing workers from reaching it to inspect the damage and drawing up a restoration plan to put it back in service,” he added.

   The project pumped about 12,000 cubic meters of water daily, supplying water to approximately 70 villages and towns, said Ali Al-Zein, former head of the Federation of Municipalities of Jabal Amel, who once supervised the construction of the Wazzani water project until its inauguration in 2002.

   Al-Zein said the destruction of the project created a severe drinking water crisis in the border region, and the situation is exacerbated by the hazardous military conditions, which hinder southern residents from accessing the river and springs.

   Al-Zein expressed concerns about a continued water outage as the Israeli army prevented local authorities from repairing the broken pumping stations, and the expense of replacing them with new ones was too costly to bear.

   “The lack of drinking water has led the citizens of the border area to collect rainwater and drag it through plastic pipes from the roofs of their homes into barrels, while a large percentage of people have resorted to local wells, and some risk their lives by going to springs to obtain water,” said Hamid Al-Ahmad, a fifty-year-old local.

   The population in the border region of southern Lebanon totals approximately 133,600 individuals, spreading across 83 towns and villages, as per data from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior.

   Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border have escalated since Oct. 8, 2023, following Hezbollah’s launch of numerous rockets towards Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel the day before. In response, Israel retaliated by deploying heavy artillery towards southeastern Lebanon. 

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