Category 18 April 2019

Industrial wastewater management in Lebanon

The government of Lebanon set out to tackle industrial wastewater pollution, which was being discharged with little or no prior treatment directly into rivers and streams. Following a number of key strategies and plans, a performance standard was introduced, setting a regulatory requirement for industry. International partners helped by providing support (advise/consultancy), assisting companies to make the transition to cleaner practices.

The challenge:

The Cost of Environmental Degradation (COED) in Lebanon was estimated at $800 million in 2005, equivalent to 4% of GDP. The largest contributor being water pollution (1.1% of GDP).

Though most wastewater comes from households, industrial wastewater is generally far more polluting. In Lebanon, most industrial wastewater was discharged with little or no prior treatment, either directly into rivers and streams, or through wastewater networks.

The measure:

The government of Lebanon set out to improve industrial waste management, focusing on water and wastewater treatment, through a combination of regulations and standards, and incentives. The following key strategies and plans were developed:

In 2012, the Ministry of Energy and Water launched a National Wastewater Strategy, requiring all industries to pre-treat wastewater prior to discharge into the municipal network by 2020.In partnership with the German Development Agency (GIZ), the Ministry of Environment published a policy paper and action plan for Industrial Wastewater Management in 2013, which made specific recommendations towards achieving industrial compliance for wastewater discharge.

Improvements to the legal framework were then made to regulate industry. A decree was passed establishing new environmental regulations for existing companies, while a second decree regulated the environmental impact of new development projects. In order to monitor that the regulations were being observed, the Environmental Compliance decree requires all industrial facilities to apply for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) every three years.

In order to give industry support and technical assistance to adhere to the new, stricter regulations, a number of programmes were then set up by the Ministry of Environment, with support from international partners:

In cooperation with the Council for Development and Reconstruction, GIZ provided a grant of €8.5 million for the establishment and operation of the Environmental Fund for Lebanon (EFL). Between 2010 and 2013, GIZ and EFL supported private and public sector enterprises to improve their environmental performance.In collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL), the World Bank and the Italian Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Environment initiated the Lebanon Environmental Pollution Abatement Program (LEPAP). LEPAP supports the financing of industrial pollution abatement interventions in industry, working with commercial banks to offer loans with interest rates close to 0%.

Lessons learnt: 

The policy was able to leverage the help of international partners to support local companies who otherwise may have struggled to adhere to the new regulations. Though the success of the policy will only become clear in the longer term, certainly the companies who received assistance from programs such as EFL and LEPAP have already started to improve their environmental performance.

Further deployment: 

The approach taken by Lebanon could provide an example for other countries where industrial wastewater pollution is a problem. It is estimated GML 7.