Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Project waste

A few years ago USAID went high on cleaning up the Hasbani river, which starts in Lebanon and then runs across the border into occupied Palestine. I have blogged earlier on the Israeli hijacking of the Hasbani water, but I don't think I've mentioned that the Israeli not only steal the water, but they also complain about it being polluted by the discharge of wastewater originating from the olive oil mills. The pollution is indeed pretty bad, and endangers the survival of a tiny fish that lives in the river and that is consumed by the local population. Mercy Corps, a US NGO working with USAID funds, decided that it should construct a waste treatment station in Hasbayya to clean up the olive mills effluents before disposal in the Hasbani. And it did. I'm not sure if the station ever worked, but I'm sure it is not working now. This article reports on the fate of the Hasbayya treatment station, which, like many (or most?) development projects lack sustainability. This is another sad story of money being spent on "projects" that only end up supporting the implementing agency and the political programs of the donors. Infrastructure projects like wastewater treatment, solid waste, water, cannot be implemented piece meal, and this for a number of reasons, one of them being simply the economy of scale. Another reason is, of course, the fact that projects end after a period of 3 years after which there is no one left to manage and repair the structures. A similar station was built in Hammana in the 1970s with donors money. It needed repair in the early 80's and has not operated since, and the villages wastes are sent down the river to the next village downstream. And there are many many similar stories.

Waste disposal is a state responsibility and a service. Not an NGO project.

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