What is the use of a water supply network? The example of Borj El Arab

Première Urgence Internationale conducts water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) projects in nearly 11 countries around the world. Focus on the project of construction of a water supply network in Borj el Arab in Lebanon and the stakes behind this mission.

Construction d'un réseau d’eau potable au Liban

A water supply network in Lebanon, the example of Borj el Arab:

Bassem lives with his wife and his children in Borj el Arab, a small town of 8,000 inhabitants in the Akkar region of northern Lebanon. Bassem has a well in his garden yard. This is not legal but since 1970 the public services of his city and of the region do not give access to a public water supply network. So, he had to find other solutions to bring water for him and his whole family.

Wells are often shared between homes. Since there are no sewage systems, families use infiltration wells. However, these wells sometimes penetrate groundwater, creating a risk of contamination. This is the case of Bassem. His well is built near a septic tank. Drinkable water has been contaminated and he is forced to buy water from a private tanker, a non-ideal solution. Arnaud Fratani, shelter and infrastructure coordinator for Première Urgence Internationale explains: “Even the water from the tanker is not always of good quality. And it is very expensive”. In Borj el Arab, 76% of people are forced to buy water because of the poor quality of their own wells.

Why build this water supply network?

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Lebanon has experienced a large influx of Syrian refugees, which represents a real challenge for local institutions. In 2018, between 1 and 1.5 million Syrian refugees arrived in Lebanon (1). The small town of Borj el Arab has 2,000 Syrian refugees that is equivalent to a quarter of its population. This represents an obvious additional challenge for its water supply.

Access to water is essential. Water and sanitation infrastructure are currently non-existent. And the emergency solutions found by the inhabitants do not allow long-term use. Set up a common network, which is much more sustainable, profitable and less expensive is a better solution than a multitude of private networks “continues Arnaud.

Thus, Première Urgence Internationale started the construction of a water supply network in Borj el Arab, including a borehole, a 1000m3 water reservoir and 16 kilometres of pipelines. For Arnaud: “The goal is to provide water for all residents, but also for schools and shops. About 90% of the city will benefit from it by the end of the project.

A community and cohesion project before anything else

Construction d'un réseau d'eau au Liban

The idea of this project is to provide access to clean drinkable water through government-managed infrastructure. The management and maintenance of the facilities will thereafter be under the supervision of the Water Establishment, the Lebanese National Water Committee.

It is truly a project that belongs to the entire community. It represents access to water at home for everyone“, explains Arnaud. “This affects both the Lebanese and the Syrian population that rent shelters and that will also benefit from the new infrastructure“. Thanks to this project, Bassem will be able to have water at home, at a fixed annual price.

The other goal is also to reduce tensions between communities. This water network will improve access to basic water services for the most vulnerable refugees.

A methodology specific to Première Urgence Internationale

The project is still in progress. Première Urgence Internationale has trained villagers in various construction and building activities. Then, the NGO engaged them to carry out the works. This is a strategy that Première Urgence Internationale uses in other projects in Lebanon also.

Bassem attended this training. “There are people who have never worked in this field and who will be able to participate in similar projects in the future,” explains Arnaud. Thus, Bassem has acquired additional skills and can now look for a job in building and public works.

In Borj el Arab, Première Urgence Internationale teams worked to build a water access network that did not exist. The organisation also organises hygiene promotion and awareness sessions for residents.

(1) UN article (2018) to learn more: https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/03/1005292

Water, hygiene and sanitation intervention sites of Première Urgence Internationale


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