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Hariri vows development for Bekaa, action on Litani

Jun 12

Prime Minister Saad Hariri reaffirmed support for east Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley over the weekend, discussing ongoing and future development projects for a region that has been heavily affected by the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Our duties toward your region are many and we are working hard for development, creating jobs for youth, infrastructure and vital services,” Hariri said during an iftar dinner Saturday in the town of Chtoura.

“This is an agricultural region par excellence, and it was called the breadbasket during the Roman period,” he added, promising to assist wheat growers with government purchases “immediately” after harvest.

Pollution of the Litani River was also discussed during the iftar. In October 2016, Parliament passed a law facilitating cleanup efforts of the river from its source in the Bekaa Valley to its estuary in south Lebanon.

Last July, the World Bank approved a $55 million loan to reduce pollution flowing into the Qaraoun Lake on the Litani River in the Bekaa Valley. The plan focuses mainly on constructing integrated sewage networks and connecting them to wastewater treatment plants. The plan remains a work in progress.

“There are people dying because of this pollution,” Hariri said as he called upon municipalities to work with the government to direct sewage pipelines from the river to treatment plants.

The premier added that a number of factories in the region continue to operate illegally, contributing to the Litani’s pollution by regularly dumping untreated waste.

“The last thing we want to do is to close a factory,” Hariri said, warning negligent factory owners of fines and possible closures if practices do not change. “The Litani is Lebanon’s longest and most important river and should not become a dumpster,” the prime minister added.

Hariri also lauded the region for hosting what the UNHCR estimates is Lebanon’s largest number of refugees, calling the region a “symbol of coexistence between all sects and religions, of rejection of discord and extremism and of practicing moderation and dialogue just a few kilometers away from war in Syria.”

He then promised that Lebanon’s eastern region would play a leading role in Syria’s reconstruction when the war ends. “We prepared an integrated plan to turn this crisis into an opportunity and improve the infrastructure and public services in your region,” he said. The prime minister’s speech is part of a nationwide investment and development effort that has led him to meet local officials from across the country to discuss ways to promote investment and growth.