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World Water Day 2014

To mark World Water Day 2014, ESCWA cooperated with the Association of the Friends of Ibrahim Abdel Al, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in holding a seminar entitled "The Water-Energy Nexus: Issues and Challenges", on 21 March, at the Order of the Press in Beirut.

The seminar was under the patronage of Lebanese Minister of Water and Energy Arthur Nazarian, and was attended by Chairman of the Water and Energy Parliamentary Committee Member of Parliament Mohammed Qabbani, Member of Parliament Jamal Jarrah, Director of the ESCWA Sustainable Development and Productivity Division Roula Majdalani, representative of the President of the Lebanese Order of the Press Muhammad Baalbaki, Fouad Harakeh, Director General of the Ministry of Environment Berj Hatchjian, Head of the Association of the Friends of Ibrahim Abdel Al Nasser Nasrallah, Representative of ALI Ziad Bekdash, and Coordinator of the Environment Program at UNIDO, Nada Sabra.

Fouad Harakeh welcomed attendees and said that the Arab region is undergoing a tempest of water scarcity because of weak leadership, misdistribution of ministerial portfolios and disrespect for laws and regulations, adding that water in Lebanon is either wasted in the sea or stolen by Israel, as is the case for both Wazzani and Hasbani rivers.

Abdel Al
Nasser Nasrallah, for his part, praised the work ESCWA is doing in the water and energy sectors. He noted that it was not entirely objective to believe that relying on water and the reservoirs in Lebanon would suffice to produce energy. It would therefore be difficult to implement this notion, which has only seen execution in Lebanon in the Litani basin. The reason, according to him, is the scarcity of rain water combined with waste and theft. Priority should be given to using water for drinking purposes, then agricultural and industrial use, and lastly for energy production, he added. Nasrallah expressed regret that Lebanon water is subjected to such polluting, and called on official and non-official parties and donors to exert real effort in mitigating this phenomenon.

Nada Sabra then delivered the message of the UN Secretary-General for the occasion of World Water Day 2014, and the statement of UNIDO Regional Representative in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, Cristiano Pasini, noting that out of 7 billion people in the world today, 1.1 billion are living without safe drinking water and 1.3 billion without electricity, while another billion suffer from hunger. In addition, 2.5 billion either have no regular access to electricity or none at all, while 2.8 billion people live in highly water-stressed areas.

The statement also noted that by 2035, and due to urban development and population growth, energy consumption is expected to increase by 35 percent, thereby increasing water consumption by 85 percent. Should natural resources continue to be managed as they are now, with the current low competence in energy production, the current water and energy consumption levels, water overuse, etc. we would not be able to supply our needs from these resources in the future, especially with global warming and population growth, according to the statement.

In his intervention entitled "Water and Energy Nexus from the Industrial Perspective towards a Green Economy", Ziad Bekdash noted that successive Lebanese governments have made attempts over decades to implement plans capitalizing on water resources. However, many factors, such as politics, regional pressures, wars, management changes, the lack of a long-term vision and the notion that water is a cheap commodity, have influenced and increased challenges to the water sector. Bekdash called for drawing future plans that would lead to a financial balance in the Lebanese power company with 24-hour power feeding. This would depend on the adoption of a water and fuel strategy as a first step for power production that rests on the least possible cost and on available means.

Closing the remarks, Roula Majdalani delivered a presentation on "The Water-Energy Nexus: A Global, Regional and National Perspective for Ensuring Access to Basic Services". She pointed out that ESCWA provides a framework for the formulation and harmonization of sectoral policies for member countries, a platform for congress and coordination, a home for expertise and knowledge, and an information observatory, as it aims at supporting socio-economic cooperation among countries of the region and promoting their development. On Lebanon, Majdalani noted that it was on the water poverty line, i.e. one thousand cubic meters per person, per year.

World Water Day is celebrated annually on 22 March of every year, to place focus on the importance of water and the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The UN General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

For more information, please visit: http://www.escwa.un.org/information/meetingdetails.asp?referenceNUM=3447e
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