The Government of Japan and UNICEF; working to ensure sustainable water and sanitation for all
Following the Beirut port explosions, and funded by Japan, the wastewater and stormwater infrastructure of Ouzai in south Beirut has been fully rehabilitated through UNICEF’s WASH programme
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Water has never been so much in demand and yet, for many, so limited in supply. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the impacts of water inequalities, and, in Lebanon, a historic lack of maintenance has combined with rapid increases in urban populations. Moreover, the pressure on supplies was compounded by the damaging effects of August 2020's Beirut port explosions.
Japan's contribution has ensured that disadvantaged girls, boys and young women will access enhanced health and immunization practices and healthy environments.
In collaboration with southern Beirut's Dahye Union of Municipalities and funded through Japan's support, consultations were conducted following the port explosions regarding ongoing requirements to rehabilitate the wastewater and stormwater infrastructure of Ouzai in south Beirut.
A district home to many of the city's most at-risk communities, including vulnerable Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian residents and other stateless and daily workers from different nationalities, many live in unfinished houses and chalets of poor construction along the coastline adjacent to Beirut's international airport.
The port blast's seismic effect exacerbated existing weaknesses by causing clogging of the city's waste water network. Main wastewater lines became blocked, which caused utility holes to become, in effect, short-term storage tanks that required regular emptying. Before the explosion, the area targeted for improvement – due to its low elevation - suffered from annual floods, which affected the whole community.
“The previous situation was catastrophic,” local resident Abou Hussein recalls. “After every winter storm, water would flood all of our homes”.
Comprehensive rehabilitation of the waste water infrastructure was carried out within the affected area from Babyland to Imam Ouzai Mosque and Babyland to the Al Janub pumping station.
For residents, the improvement was immediate, and the impact on an area certain to be affected by winter floods, is considerable.
"The improvement is sure to be a boost to the local economy", predicts nearby garage owner Najib. "More people will commit to this area now that the water situation is finally sorted out".
UNICEF worked with the Union of Municipalities and the Ministry of Energy and Water on constructing a 700mm stormwater culvert to allow drainage for the entire watershed area directly to the sea. Previously, excessive stormwater resulted in extreme flooding of the streets or saw it draining through wastewater lines.
Abu Alaa Al-Sayed recalls how the neighbourhood regularly suffered from flooding and notes how the new works represent "a huge relief for this area".
The project consisted of constructing a new main stormwater conveyor that removes stormwater from the western edge of Sultan Ibrahim Road and Saint Michel Road to the sea. This project aims to relieve pressure from the wastewater network, which was not designed to cope with the stormwater loads of winter. It also seeks to eliminate public and private property damage when the water level rises by a meter at its peak.
"The government and the people of Japan are our long-time partners in substantially contributing to strengthening UNICEF's ongoing response efforts and interventions in support of children and their families," said Rania Ali Abdalla, WASH Specialist at UNICEF Lebanon. "Through Japan's generous support in these times of immense crises, UNICEF will be able to scale up interventions to ensure access to health, water and healthy environments for the most vulnerable girls and boys in Lebanon".