Living On Alternatives

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It became a habit in Lebanon to search for an alternative whenever something breaks down. This is a sign of  smartness of course, but it’s also a sign of submission and naivety to accept a “fait accompli” as a primary mean of life.

Some believe that strong political parties are creating a state within the state. But in reality we are already living in a state within a state just by relying on non-governmental resources.

When the civil war ended in the early 90’s, the electricity infrastructure was catastrophic with minimum daily supply. Many rushed to buy home generators in a way to compensate the shortage of electricity provided by the state. This situation lasted till the beginning of the new millennium when the business of private generators started with the collaboration of most politicians present at that time.

Electricite du Liban

One government after the other was unable in a period of 10 years to find a solution for the electricity problem. Alternatively, they found the perfect cash cow. They allowed private generators providers to operate legally and even collaborated with the Ministry of Energy & Water to set a unique price for the kilowatt. The government explained that this is the best solution before accomplishing  a four year plan, that will provide all the Lebanese territory with 24 hour electricity.

Yes, they duped everyone. Why? Because the Lebanese is a demanding person without principles. As long as he has electricity at home, he doesn’t care where it’s coming from. Whether from one or multiple source, or if any corruption was taking place within the ministry, or if the power plants were polluting the environment. “Who cares? As long as I have power at home.” he would say.

This mentality of accepting an imposed solution led, two decades later to what Lebanon is today. Still no constant daily electricity, relying on private generators, with politicians still feeding the Lebanese with hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.

Another wasted resource is water. Lebanon is blessed to have 13 rivers running through its mountains and 3 long rivers originating from its hinterland, in such a dry region of the world. This natural resource, if well exploited, could provide Lebanon with more than its need of water. Saying so, every household in Lebanon should receive regular daily water, as well as sufficient quantity for irrigation in the main agriculture areas such as the Bekaa and Akkar.

River Lebanon

And just like the electricity dilemma, no government or ministry was able in years to set a plan and benefit from this natural resource. Although dam and artificial tanks were built in some regions, the waste is still high compared to the overall yearly supply of water. Instead, the successive governments accepted the business of water tank trucks as another provider for the Lebanese resident. The most shameful thing, is that these trucks fill their tanks from water springs across Lebanon and charge a higher per liter rate than the one provided by the Ministry of Energy & Water. Beside the incompetency of the government, the water trucks business is creating other social problems such as high traffic and loud noise.

Another aspect of negligence is the absence of organized public parking spots near commercial and residential areas. The presence of park meters within the Beirut district was a positive move that should have expanded to other regions too. Much as this helped to organize the parking on the streets of Beirut, the authorities kept approving the construction of many restaurants, pubs, and buildings without proper regulations for car parkings.

That opened the way for valet parking service to grow in a chaotic way. Sidewalks, schools, alleyways are all turned to double-line parking at night. Sometimes, you find a spot right next to the venue that requires a minute walk but you still opt for the valet parking (cliché). Once, a friend told me about his stop visit at a well-known restaurant. “They oblige you to pay a 5,000 L.L valet parking fee and all you consumed was a 3,000 L.L thyme sandwich” he said.

Ideally, valet parking service is used at main venues and events such as weddings, casinos, private clubs or luxurious hotels. In Lebanon, you have it in shopping areas, at restaurants, in shisha places, at beaches; even some residents in a crowded neighborhood of the capital Beirut hired a person just to take care of their cars.

While trying not to sound too utopic, but all Lebanese should at least demand to get their citizen rights fully and not partially. They should not be using products like a UPS, APS or voltage regulator in their homes, they should have well paved roads, 24 hours stable electricity and water in abundance.

Lately, i read an article about how Sweden is running out of trash to produce the needed energy through its waste-to-energy program; obliging them to buy trash from Norway and surrounding countries. In reality, Lebanon can offer this supply for free to the Swedish government, and while you’re at it, please take as much politicians as you can and burn them. At least, they will produce something.

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