tjir4-4a - Can Abundance and Scarcity Clash Environmental...

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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol.4, No.4, Winter 2005 1 Can Abundance and Scarcity Clash? Environmental Security in Lebanon’s Second Republic Sami ZEIDAN* This paper examines the ongoing threat to environmental security in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990. It makes the case that there can be environmental causes and effects of conflict, as well as environmental targets of conflict in Lebanon. It examines why the government does not always implement international environmental treaties. The paper studies the hydropolitics of the region, the ominous threat of water wars, and the claims of Syria and Israel on Lebanon’s abundant water. It examines the Wazzani pump dispute that erupted in 2001 when, following Israeli withdrawal, the Lebanese government decided to divert water from the Hasbani River into surrounding impoverished villages. The dispute exemplifies how water tensions, in an area already fueled by political distrust, can easily inflate into war rhetoric. The implications for cooperation with Israel, as well as the role of water in the peace process are also analyzed. As it continues to recover from its 15-year civil war (1975-90), Lebanon, with its limited economic, social and political resources, faces enormous challenges in its struggle for security, given its regional position – located between two powerful neighbors, Syria and Israel – where it bears the consequences of a failed peace process between Israel, the Palestinians, Syria, and of course Lebanon. In the geographical region where Lebanon is situated, environmental issues have been sources of conflict between Arabs and non-Arabs, both in the Near East and Africa. Wars have also contributed to the destruction of the environment in the Arab world. In a region where water is scarce, Lebanon’s neighbors have always claimed its relatively abundant waters. A brief historical overview confirms this. In the Middle East, water conflict is an age-old problem, mentioned as far back as in the Old Testament. The early systematic work of the Zionists for the utilization of the Litani River, which flows within Lebanon and drains not far from Israel, can be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century. During the war of 1948, the new state of Israel occupied Lebanese territory west of its northern tongue to the left bank of the Litani, only to vacate it a few months later partly because of its wrong assumption that water sharing arrangements would be worked out for joint exploitation of the waters of south Lebanon. Since 1949, when Israel and Lebanon signed an armistice agreement, no water arrangements have been put into place by the two neighbors, either through direct negotiation or any other form of formal agreement. As early as 1955, the abundance of water in Lebanon was noticed as a way to alleviate projected water problems in the
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Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol.4, No.4, Winter 2005 2 Jordan River Valley, under the US Johnston plan to divert water from the Litani River into Lake
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tjir4-4a - Can Abundance and Scarcity Clash Environmental...

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