Lebanon steps up water diversion in defiance of Israeli war threats
Disregarding Israeli war threats, Lebanon has stepped up construction works on a pumping station that would divert the waters of the Wazzani River from its flow into Israel to villages in South Lebanon. On Tuesday, September 10, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that Israel could not abide the diversion of essential water sources. Such an act would constitute “casus belli,” or grounds for war, he stated.
While the Lebanese government initiated diplomatic efforts to stave off any Israeli action, Hizbollah warned it will "cut off Israel's hands" if it tries to stop the project. Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the militant Islamic group, which helped free the region in May 2000 from a 22-year long Israeli occupation.
The project, which was commissioned several months ago by the government’s Southern Council, is carried out by a private Lebanese company, Ward, which expects its completion by Mid-October, contractor Ali Wehbe told AFP.
Last August, the company began to lay a 16-kilometer cast-iron pipeline, some 40 centimeters wide. The network is designed to pump 3.5 million cubic meters of Wazzani waters a year to 20 villages in the parched Southern Lebanon region. The scheme’s planners envisage the construction of a water reservoir in the future, complete with a system of pumps and generators.
The Wazzani, which springs less than a kilometer north of the Lebanese-Israeli border, is a tributary of the Hasbani River that runs from Lebanon into Israel's Lake Tiberias, through the Jordan River.
While Lebanon uses seven million cubic meters of water per year from the Hasbani, its southern neighbor Israel takes 150-160 million cubic meters, filling 15-25 percent of Lake Tiberias, the country’s primary reservoir of drinking water. Lebanon’s diversion project would raise its share to nine million cubic meters, Lebanese official sources said.
This is not the first time Israel regards water diversion plans as a casus belli. In 1964, Syria began implementing an Arab Summit decision to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River. Israel launched air and artillery attacks on the bulldozers at the site and Syrian abandoned the project. These clashes were the precursor to the war of June 1967. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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