Disclaimer: The below views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author.
THINKING OUT OF THE BOX – GREEN SOLUTIONS FOR LEBANON
All the roads lead to Rome but the shortest way is the smartest.
Engineer Marcel MANSOUR, board member of LGBC (Lebanon Green Building Council) is seeking to open the eyes of young Lebanese generations in their 20’s and 30’s to a new way of thinking as an ‘out of the box’ model, based on simplicity in dealing with the dilemmas in our society while keeping feet on ground regarding the solutions that we can adopt in the present context. It is an invitation to BRAINSTORM ideas and to PROVOKE youth imagination for the buildup of new solutions to our current ones.
Any decision making made at a certain time whether having a positive or a negative impact (social, governmental, political and other) will affect the YOUNG generations rather than those of the elder ones.
There are plenty of good ideas that need to be implemented. There should be someone to LEAD the start of the implementation pushing the social groups to follow or to copy the model.
‘There is always a 1st time for everything in life’ requiring one person or one group to start or to initiate a change.
DARING is a requirement as well. All those who brought changes in our life dared to face the uncommon styles (Da Vinci is a model).
Young generations lack the experience but are RICH in DREAMS, in ENERGY, in DEVOTION, in high hopes and in the WILL to ACHIEVE.
Revolution is the dream of every young person.
Evolution is driven by the youth.
The need and the road to change are nearer to young people than to elder people.
The dream is mainly a YOUTH characteristic.
Based on the above, it is imperative to lean on young generations to make a change in our life in Lebanon and to evolve into our social life, especially that we are living the worse conditions ever witnessed for decades.
What are our problems? And do we have solutions to clear them or at least to reduce their negative impact on our daily living?
Our main problems outside of political issues are:
- Electricity & power generation
- Clean potable water
- Water reserves
- Food safety
- Transport roads and means of transportation
- Climate change
Technical solutions are there for each and every point. Administration is killing any initiative. Private sector INITIATIVES are – as always – the only way to ‘make a change’.
Engineers are meant to design and think, then optimize before implementing any solution.
Engineers are not meant to copy solutions or to copy techniques. They are supposed to be aware of all possible solutions and technologies available in the international market and to select the MOST SUITABLE one and to ADAPT it to suit our LOCAL CONDITIONS. In other words, any developed technique needs to be adapted to the environment and local conditions where it is suggested for implementation.
What is the merit of an engineer if s/he designs or executes any idea like any other non-qualified person on Earth?
For example, light colors (façade, clothing, car paint) are meant for hot areas while dark colors are meant for cold areas.
As such, the same house designed in Europe cannot be duplicated in the Middle East (coastal area) or in the desert unless it is adapted to the conditions of the geographic area where the house is going to be constructed.
In the same process, a house designed for the coast of Lebanon cannot be duplicated to the mountains or to the Bekaa valley area unless local conditions are studied and accounted for, such as solar exposure, humidity, wind, snow, land orientation, and soil characteristics.
Based on the above, finishing materials (walls and floors, inside and outside), plants, and other matters can be selected to suit the local conditions for the best performance of the constructed house.
From another perspective, the choice of the structure shall be based on the life span desired for the project and in this perspective we can select wood, steel, stone or reinforced concrete structures for the construction of the house.
Cost and budget are not the primary decision makers in any project. Other aspects prevail in some specific conditions depending on the project itself.
Preserving our own life gets costs out of the equation.
Drinking water cost cannot be argued if we lack of potable water. COST becomes IRRELEVANT and of no primary importance, not to say of any importance at all.
However, luxury is debatable and cost is the main drive for the selection of luxurious items.
SUSTAINABILITY cannot be subject to cost analysis for one simple reason: it will pay itself sooner or later. Therefore, if sustainability will pay itself in 5, 10 or 15 or even 50 years, then cost shall become irrelevant.
Feasibility studies and advantage/disadvantage lists shall be prepared at early stages of any project. The impacts shall be looked at while comparing to direct and to indirect effects.
Brainstorming is beneficial to the decision making while selecting the solution to be adopted.
Implementation needs continuous follow up and team work. Team spirit is of essence to the evolving countries.
Ethics and good conduct are necessary for a clear and transparent work process.
Scientific approach is the key to eliminating any time losses, opportunity and cost losses.
If we agree on adopting all the above hints, any problem will have its proper solution.
It was necessary to describe all the ideas listed in this introduction so that each one of us sees where to use them in the following chapters dealing with our social problems.
Electricity & power generation
What are our local conditions?
- Lack of dollars for importation
- Importation leads to a poorer country (loss of local wealth)
- Lack of maintenance
- Lack of time to implement solutions
- Immediate solutions needed
- Private sector efficiency
- Maintenance free solutions or at least minimum maintenance needed
- Too much sunny days
- Plenty of non-mineral natural resources (water, sun, wind)
What are the available solutions?
- Traditional fuel power plants
- Gas powered plants
- Wind farms
- Photo Voltaic (PV) plants
- Hydro turbines
- Wave turbines
Which solutions are most likely to suit our Lebanese conditions?
Wind, PV and hydro turbines technologies are most suited for Lebanese conditions.
We have plenty of wind in Akkar and in Hermel.
We have plenty of sunny days all over Lebanon, about 300 days a year.
We have plenty of perennial rivers flowing from altitudes of 1,600 to 2,000 m.
We have many mega flow rivers (compared to the size of Lebanon).
All those are FREE of charge and CONTINUOUS all over the year.
This diversity of those natural resources allows Lebanon to get a combination of techniques that consider the advantages and the disadvantages of the use of any of the 3 natural resources especially those related to SUITABILITY, autonomy, maintenance, cost and ease of installation.
Besides, those techniques – if DECENTRALIZATION is applied to micro geographic zones in Lebanon – will allow for the reduction of POWER LOSSES due to transportation and the risk of GENERAL POWER FAILURES as we can witness with the present centralized solutions.
Local autonomy can be easily reached and the challenge would be to MANAGE energy productions to cater for the needs of the urbanized areas like Beirut and Tripoli. Technology has the means to overcome this difficulty.
DECENTRALIZATION is key to solving our power issues. Relying on the private sector is unavoidable to get progress in the evolution of the growing networks, CONTINUITY of services and ACCOUNTABILITY of the service providers.
All governments in the organized world rely on private sector to execute their projects. A huge project is generally DISSECTED into several smaller projects assigned to a bigger number of different specialized teams so that it could be finished in a shorter time. This translates into increasing the work power while decreasing the scope of work and better risk management.
The description of the methods to be used in sustainable solutions would be discussed and detailed in the chapters below. The least we can say is that those technologies are almost free from the time they are purchased and their performances are guaranteed for 25 years. In addition to that, these technologies are providing better performances over time, and the present and future development of many countries in the world is based on the implementation of those technologies.
A simple example of the benefit provided by sustainable technologies based on harvesting natural resources is the solar heater laid on the roof tops of houses and buildings, providing domestic hot water for wet areas.
Unlike the present electric heaters that cannot perform unless they consume electricity, the solar powered heaters rely on SUN POWER. From the moment they are installed, the water is heated for FREE all day long (during sunny or partly cloudy days). This means that there is NO MORE BILLING of electricity throughout the year except during completely covered skies in January and February and therefore, the electric bills are cut by 80 or 90% depending on the weather conditions. This also means that no petrol is burnt nor the weather is polluted and certainly no dollars are migrating outside our borders for the purchase of the petrol.
Besides, we are free and independent from the EDL performance, i.e. the continuous heating of our domestic water regardless of electrical supply by EDL and regardless of the shipment of fuel to Lebanon that is facing a serious discontinuity this year and for years to come.
Imagine that all Lebanese houses, institutions, factories, etc. are having their water heaters dependent on solar power. A small study will show that we have about 1 million families in Lebanon, meaning at least 1.6 million heaters that require at least an average of 2 hours per day heating. And if we consider that the heater is powered by 1.2 KW capacity, this means we are consuming daily around 4 million KWh or 4 GWh. As the selling price of the KWh is sold in Lebanon for 100 to 150 liras/KWh, then we are spending every day 0.25 to 0.40 million dollars every day to heat our domestic water, the equivalent of 100 to 150 million dollars per year. Since EDL is selling electricity for less than the cost, then our yearly bill for water heaters is 200 million dollars EXTRACTED from our national wealth at a time we can SAVE all this money and all the POLLUTION that derives from it.
It is like buying bottled water while you have a clean and clear water spring next to your house.
It is as simple as that. And the change can start with every one of us. All it takes is a drastic change in the behavior and the use of common sense.
You might ask: why then this technology is not commonly spread in Lebanon and why the government does not impose it on its population?
The answer is simple: people are weighing the cost of the system that is around 1,500 usd/house against the spent bill of say 15 or 20,000 Lebanese pounds per month.
The judgment is based on ECONOMICS and not on the NATIONAL BENEFIT, AIR QUALITY, LONG TERM BENEFIT or SELF AUTONOMY.
As for the government, it is simply a political issue where BURNING PETROL is beneficial to the political parties that are using part of the benefits to finance their political expenses.
A wise government would INCENTIVIZE its population to adopt technologies that solve their issues. We will always push towards such kind of thinking when OFFERING INCENTIVES although costing money to the governments; still it is bringing the petrol importation costs to the minimum.
If you feel now that this kind of thinking is beneficial, then try to extrapolate to other users like:
- Street lighting
- Fence lighting
- Highway lighting
- Houses lighting
- Façade lighting
- TV powering
- Fridge powering
And try to expand to all sectors outside houses like:
- Governmental buildings
When SUMMATING the BENEFITS, we would see that the amount of money saved would shoot to above 1 billion dollars and if the systems are designed properly, we can cover all the deficit of EDL easily within 10 to 20 months, not more.
The key to that is opening the doors to private sector and to municipalities to play their role the way the government gave the role to power suppliers in the streets through generators to solve the deficit of the power supply of EDL. The contribution of the private sector and of the municipalities shall be of course organized and managed differently from the private supplies mode.
The mother of all problems in Lebanon is garbage. All the solutions proposed cannot fit the purpose mainly for demographics and for geographic conditions including wind dominance.
What are our local conditions?
- Water table is shallow and present almost everywhere in Lebanon
- Wind is blowing in general from the sea towards inland and not vice versa unless exceptionally
- Agglomerations are near to each other and villages dispersion is rare in Lebanon
- Lack of respect of technologies requirements
- Lack of quality control and quality assurance
What are the available solutions?
- Landfill – Hill dumping (Dora – Tripoli)
- Landfill – Underground dumping (Naameh)
- Biologic treatment
- Drying organic matters
- Feeding the organic matters to animals
All the above solutions (except the last 3 ones) provide a PARTIAL solution and not a full solution for Lebanon as at least one of the local conditions is not met. Therefore, an ‘out of the box’ solution is to be designed.
One of those ideas is the treatment of the garbage using the best performing technologies OFF-SHORE. The idea is to solve the proximity issue of the plants to urbanized areas and that of the nature of the fumes and their impact on human health (short and long term) by displacing the plants on FLOATING PLATFORMS in the SEA. The plants will be far from any urbanized area, and far from any contact with the population. The smells will be dispersed in the air, and finally all the requirements for QA/QC and their strict management would not pose any problem. Consequently, this offset geographic solution will counterbalance the effect of fumes that will be dispersed in the air. Their density in the air will go far below the ceilings given in the strictest international standards.
If the dominant winds in Lebanon were directed from inland towards the sea, then the solution presented at the sea side wouldn’t be needed.
What are the INNOVATIVE simple and basic solutions proposed for Lebanon?
Drying organic matters
At the present moment, one of the best solutions would be the ‘drying of organic matters’ that is a basic method requiring no special techniques and which can be used at personal level, community and city levels as well.
Organic matters in the garbage in Lebanon can vary from 40 to 60% of the total weight of the Lebanese garbage. The big fluctuation comes from the mode of living varying between cities and countryside. In all cases, the amount of organic matters is high and it is no secret that organic waste is mostly made out of water like human being bodies. More than 80% of organic waste is made out of water.
It is known that 1 kg of water requires around 420 KJ of energy to bring its temperature up from zero to one hundred degrees Celsius. The same weight of water requires around 2,250 KJ of energy to boil the water and to transform it into vapor. And as the garbage temperature varies from 20 to 30 degrees in general depending on seasons (Lebanon’s case), the energy needed to bring the water to ebullition is around 330 KJ. Therefore, evaporating water requires almost 7 times more energy to vaporize it rather than from bringing it to ebullition. The total amount of energy needed to eliminate 1 kg of water from the organic matter is around 2,600KJ. The cooking gaz Butane produces 47,500 KJ/kg of energy which means that 1 kg of Butane can bring 18 kg of water in around 25 kg of organic waste from ambient temperature to vapor.
Burning 1 kg of Butane will produce 3 kg of CO2. Therefore every 6 kg of water will produce 1 kg of CO2 to bring them from ambient temperature to vapor.
The official figures show that Lebanon produces above 1 million tons of organic waste per year requiring 40,000 tons of Butane to evaporate the water and produce 120,000 tons of CO2 per year into our air while we can keep this task to the SUN to do it on our behalf.
Natural drying has proved to be a clean solution producing dry organic matters that can be burned and turned into electricity or any other form of energy for houses or any other use.
Natural drying produces no smells if spread in thin layers allowing sun rays to penetrate the matter and dry the wet matters faster. As for space requirements, it turned to be of low importance: all Lebanon requires 1 million m2. When distributed to villages and cities, this figure translates into 1,000 m2 to 10,000 m2 respectively for mid-sized villages and average cities.
As rainy days are about 15% of the year days, artificial drying is needed during wet season. Blowers are needed to compensate the lack of sun during rainy days. Blower’s consumption of energy is insignificant compared to heating garbage and to the restricted time for blowers need.
I have tested in person this technology over 2 summer seasons and it worked perfectly. My garbage volume was reduced to a minimum and the garbage bags dumped into the trash were reduced to 1 travel per week instead of 1 trip every other day. The garbage was made of recyclable materials and solid non-recyclable trash.
This simple technology produces no smells, builds up no insects and if there are birds around, part of the organic matters will be consumed by the birds.
Feeding organic matters to animals
Tests have shown that a big part of the organic matter whether cooked or raw can be consumed by different types of animals such as birds, rodents like rabbits, dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, foxes, etc.
This basic elementary solution has been tested in Tripoli for more than 30 years where in some outskirt suburbs, cows were only leaving for the garbage truck the solid waste to dump.
Rabbits have shown their suitability to perform organic raw materials in a pace of 1 rabbit per family, i.e. a farm of 200 rabbits and 2 cows or 10 goats can eliminate the organic waste of a village of 1,000 inhabitants.
Furthermore, the manure produced by those farms can be returned to the fields to fertilize the gardens and offset partly the need for fertilizers (and relative cost in fresh dollars).
Besides, such a solution will have a social impact on new generations while linking them to animal world and to nature and this will build a new generation CONVINCED of dealing with garbage in this manner.
The solution requires coordination and a collection system that vary from one community to another.
Proper incentives are needed at the beginning to enhance this method to take place.
Incentives can be in the form of by-products from the farm (house pets, meat, milk, eggs, fertilizers (manure), etc.) free of charge based on the weight participation of each contributor per month.
Once we extract the organic matters from our garbage, the solid waste can be easily selected and sent to recycling.
Once again, this effort produced by the population shall be incentivized and not penalized.
Law application needs a continuous follow up that is not easy to undertake, while incentive schemes are easy to implement and can be embraced easier by the population.
I have tested personally this method by adopting 3 rabbits that have been enough to clear all the organic matters of 3 houses. Rabbits turned to be very clean, easy to raise, produce no noise, smells are minimal especially if cleaning is done on a weekly basis or every 10 days.
In addition to that, the rabbits brought the attention of the kids and new bonds were created with the pets and a part of the time of the kids was spared in the morning and in the evening to feed the rabbits and to take care of them.
One advantage in rabbit farming is that they eat a variety of vegetables and hay and they reproduce every 28 to 31 days, which allows in the villages and in the cities to invest this easy and fast reproduction in the incentive schemes and/or in meat production.
Pollution is a much broad subject that requires multiple chapters while getting into the details of each polluter and they are many, unfortunately for Lebanon. Although it is so tiny in area coverage, Lebanon should have been one of the best low-pollution performers.
Where do we stand now?
Our pollution is deriving from:
- Power plants running on HEAVY FUEL
- Old power plants that are low in performance unlike the new generation power plants
- Natural gas is not used, aggravating the situation
- Garbage stocked in piles (landfills) in Dora and in Tripoli and elsewhere are producing methane
- Cars and trucks running on DIRTY FUELS
- Old cars and trucks are not efficient in terms of anti-pollution performance
- Private generators are taking a big part of the pollution mainly in the cities. We can see the smoke and we can smell the odors all day long
- The absence of a suitable transportation system aggravates the situation
- The absence of railways
- Burning the garbage in many areas in Lebanon is another source of pollution
- The disposal of chemicals and heavy metals with no restrictions is a hidden source of pollution that we cannot see or feel directly but is surely affecting the general state of air quality and soil quality and water quality as well.
What are the solutions?
Technology improvement has provided multiple solutions that can eradicate many of the pollution sources:
- PV Photovoltaic farms will reduce the dependency on fuel generators
- Wind mills as well
- Hydro power as well
- Electric cars if incentivized will have a huge impact on air quality
- Common transport electric buses will have a similar impact
- Drying the garbage will eliminate all organic decomposition
- Selected imported fuel with high specifications
- Implementing a railway network at least at the coastal line from North to South and towards inland Zahle and Baalbeck
- Stopping the burning of garbage and ensuring the collection of garbage and not the chaotic disposal of the garbage in the valleys and on the roads.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with a solution capable of solving the matter with simple methods. Pollution is man-made and it requires an EVOLUTION in civic performance and in ETHICS within:
Incentive schemes and competitions between the municipalities and cities can surely bring a drastic change.
In parallel, a strict fining scheme needs to be implemented for those who break the rules.
Clean potable water
It is sad to see that the richest country in the region in water resources is buying bottled water.
What are the reasons of buying bottled water?
- Some water sources are contaminated
- Water installations are old and not sealed properly either during construction (inappropriate handing over) or due to civil works from other parties
- Lack of water pumping stations and treatment plants, undersized to the growing demand the past 4 decades
- Lack of confidence in water municipality quality. The population does not believe it can receive potable water in the tap.
What are the available solutions?
Given the present situation and the complexity of the network, the solutions are rare and much complicated:
- Test and change the deficient networks
- New pumping and treatment stations
- The best is to install new piping and reservoirs the way petrol is transported inland while the water is extracted directly from the source from a sealed double or triple pipe allowing the preservation of the quality of water as received from the source. This solution is mainly adaptable to the rivers flowing from the west façade of the western Lebanese mountains flowing towards the coastal cities that summate more than 70% of the Lebanese population. This water requires no treatment and it can be connected to the existing networks if found sound or can be localized in water collectors with taps in the streets where individuals can fill their potable water or collect enough funds to allow the pressurized water by gravity to reach their apartments in the buildings.
We have plenty of natural water sources (springs, rivers).
Water is potable and mineral. No treatment needed.
Water is cold all over the year and can still be harmless for long periods of time.
This solution is FREE of charge and SUSTAINABLE, CONTINUOUSLY provided throughout the year.
The flagrant example would be Nebeh Rachiine in the north of Lebanon where this natural source situated at about 200 m altitude was exploited by the French during the colony in a real professional way while preserving at that time the source from contamination.
This water source is perennial and its flow is at least 2 m3/s in the summer time and can go up to 10 m3/s during winter season especially during February and March.
This water source that used to feed Tripoli and the suburbs is no more a primary source due to contamination. All the villages along the path of the river water course are not using the water and are either in short of water or buying water in tankers while the water is at their feet. This is a shameful situation and many solutions can be implemented.
Although bottled water has created jobs, those jobs are false and the result of this industry is an ADDED TAX to the population.
Potable water is supposed to be reaching every house in Lebanon especially that our cities and villages are not dispersed and as those are implemented near water courses.
Local municipalities would be able to manage their own water uses the way they are dealing with garbage in full autonomy.
As a matter of fact, bottled water is a catastrophe to Lebanon although it is a small item that passes in our community even among engineers unnoticed. The impact of bottled water industry in Lebanon is as follows:
- Part of the national wealth is spent for a lost cause
- Pollution is generated from bottling stage until delivery (fuel consumption, plastic waste)
- Electricity and fuel consumption for filling and packaging
- Gas emissions during transportation and delivery
- Gas emissions during garbage collection
- Plastic pollution in the sea and in the landfills
About 80% of the Lebanese population outside the rural areas depends on bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes. All offices and industries are depending on bottled water. It is estimated that 1.5 to 2 million m3 of bottled water are consumed by year using this industry and it is costing as much as 600 million dollars per year to the Lebanese population representing a huge waste that can be used in productive investments.
Domestic water deliveries by tankers are creating a worse situation while generating plenty of discomfort within the Lebanese community. The volume of water used cannot be measured properly but can be estimated to about 8 to 15 million m3 of trucked water delivered to houses. The wasted money can be evaluated to a range of 30 to 60 million dollars per year.
Water subject is a disgrace to our community in Lebanon. Non responsible persons are judging Lebanese water issues in a non-professional way.
Lebanon is enduring a shift in the seasons and not a desertification effect. In fact, it is clear from the precipitation measurements and readings that the amount of water received in Lebanon is almost the same and fluctuates in a regular manner as witnessed in the past.
The big difference is in the shortening of the rainy days throughout the years. This reflects in more rain water volume falling during wet season at a shorter number of days in the year. The solution is to compensate the lack of longer distribution of water precipitation in an indirect way while using ponds and water reservoirs.
A study will be issued soon showing the quantum of rain falling on Lebanon for the past century while counting the rainy days per year and their spread throughout the year. This study will cut all kinds of personal and subjective interpretations that are poisoning the general spirit of water strategies.
Water scarcity in Lebanon does not exist in real. It is the result of the MISMANAGEMENT of the water resources we have.
Water ponds at different altitudes in Lebanon present a solution for the shortage of water while trapping part of the running water to the sea. The reserve can be used in areas in need for water for farming, agriculture and industry.
Water ponds need to be implemented at high altitude above 2,000 m where the ponds will be holding snow and ice that will not melt until late in the summer allowing continuity of water supplies fresh and cold to the places in need.
These solutions would counterbalance the effect of climate change we are facing in Lebanon and not desertification as some are trying to justify.
Dams are part of the solution especially if they do not present a RISK on the population living around them and especially if they are located on grounds meant to hold water (non-porous soils).
The risks of dams in Lebanon are:
- Risk of failure due to earthquakes
- Risk of sliding of part of the sides if the soil is porous leading to landslides
- Risk of explosion by bombing
- Risk of bad execution and creation of undesired infiltration leading to internal erosions of the dam
If a dam fails in Lebanon, the surrounding villages, towns and villages spread until the coastal area will suffer from an inland Tsunami. A big accelerating wave of water retained by the dam, the dam itself (concrete and earth), the eroded materials (trees, rocks) on the course of the water will generate a huge energy compared to several Hiroshima bombs equivalent.
For instance, Bisri dam would have generated 1.5 equivalent bombs of Hiroshima just from the energy of water. This energy is to be double if we account for the dam structure and erosion.
The worst-case scenario relates to Chabrouh dam. Although its capacity to retain water is low, it stands at a high altitude of 1,650 m. The energy held by the water itself is 9 equivalent Hiroshima bombs or 18 bombs equivalent if we account for the whole materials dragged in the descent. 18 to 20 villages will be wiped out of the map starting from Faraya to Zouk Mosbeh and Yasouh al Malak. And the result of this inland Tsunami would be the creation of a new island about 1,000 m from the coastal line.
Water cascades, small dams in series or water reservoirs are a very suitable solution for trapping the water at different levels in the mountains of Lebanon while keeping the flow running downwards. Water cascades will be retaining a relatively small amounts of water compared to dams but their total capacity will surpass the total capacity of the big dam itself. The interest in those water retaining structures is that they can be put in series along the river bed, higher than the villages established on the bank of the rivers, and can hold the amount of water needed for those villages as well as drive the water by gravity to the end users while producing part of the needs of power for those villages through hydro turbines.
Besides, those projects can be run in parallel and the total duration of the whole project can last at most one year while any big dam will take from 3 to 5 years to be put in service. We should highlight that, from a risk management point of view, in case of failure of any of those small water retaining structures, the damage can be contained unlike those of the big dams like Chabrouh and the like situated at high elevations.
Another alternative is to construct, along the path of the rivers and above the villages or cities, rectangular or cylindrical water tanks (reinforced concrete or metallic ones) sized in number and in capacity to provide the water reserves of the area destined to service. Those structures can be done in such a way to integrate the surrounding spaces, and their roofs can be used to harvest sun energy for electric power generation servicing the installations and the surrounding streets.
Another wild solution is the construction of huge water reservoirs in the size of 1 km x 1 km at altitudes higher than cities of about 100 m. The top ceiling of the reservoirs can be used for commercial or residential activity. This model would allow for a double use of the land.
Food safety is an issue old as Lebanon and the first time it was talked about was through Gebran Khalil Gebran, our philosopher who was ashamed of the Lebanese community that couldn’t, even at his time, be sustainable at least at food safety while the society was almost fully depending on agriculture, unlike our days when the consumption rates per capita are much higher.
It is always stated in the media in Lebanon and worldwide that there are not enough spaces for agriculture on planet Earth to cater for the needs of the populated Earth.
In fact, this is not true. There are plenty of lands available for agriculture. The problem is that the decision makers are looking for easy solutions and are not trying to find simple solutions to clear water and land issues.
The main issue is guaranteeing water for agriculture and this can be easily done especially in Lebanon where more than the half of its precipitation is not captured and is running directly to the sea.
The second factor in terms on importance is the hilly, steep non reclaimed lands. Our ancestors managed transforming hard lands to become terraces ready for agriculture. They used their own simple means and their DETERMINATION to clear their issues.
Technology has provided multiple techniques and solutions to transform sloppy lands into terraces and to reduce the amount of water needed for irrigation through drip irrigation. We can now easily construct greenhouses capable of reducing the impact of extreme weathers during winter time.
Furthermore, the sea treasures are not exploited, especially in terms of fish farming and sea food that we can do on the Lebanese shores while using the existing ‘out of service’ salt ponds or creating similar shallow structures allowing the water to heat up easily even during winter time, and heat them when necessary using PV panels.
Sea products are extremely expensive in Lebanon due to importation and the quality of the products is not guaranteed as the conservation is not always maintained.
This sector needs to be developed and can offset part of the food chain supply issues faced in Lebanon.
Transport roads and means of transportation
Transportation in Lebanon is a big issue due to certain facts. So where do we stand now?
- Road networks are old
- Road networks are under designed at many places
- No maintenance applied
- Storm water drainage is not proper
- Means of transportation are partly too old and not properly maintained
- Public transport network is absent
- The present private mass transport is dangerous
- Trains and tramways were stopped decades ago
What are the solutions that we can have in Lebanon at public or at private levels?
- Tramways in the cities
- Express trains between cities
- Tunnels in Achrafieh
- Double deck roads
- Precast car parks
- Shortening roads between areas
- Precast bridges
- Sea bridges
- Sea transport network
Many solutions are available and every area requires a dedicated solution. For instance, the big transport and traffic issue in Beirut is the lack of public transport tool and certainly tramway network or underground trains.
Citizens in big cities are obliged to use their cars to enable their transportation needs within the city while the presence of a tramway/metro would allow keeping using the cars for long distances trips outside the city (inter cities transport or to the mountain areas).
The high traffic at the northern gates of Beirut is due to workers in private sector, employees in public sector and army members mobilizing every day to Beirut to join their work. Although mini buses are used, the problem is still there. Providing an express train linking the North to Beirut would relieve the capital city from many of the bad consequences of traffic:
- Losses of time
- Over expenses in fuel bills
- Air Pollution that became unbearable
- Noise Pollution
- Population Stress
- Loss of productivity
Tunnels within the city and mainly at the base of Achrafiyeh will relieve the district from more than half of the traffic, as a big part of the travellers are obliged to climb the hill to get to their destination at the opposite side of the hill.
Double deck roads especially at the so called international roads where the upper lanes will be dedicated for the direct destination to Beirut without having the chance to stop at any point starting from Tabarja in the North and from Bir Hassan from the South.
Precast construction will enable an ease implementation of any solution for traffic. Precast construction enables better quality of the engineered solutions and allows part of the construction to be done in the factory shortening this way the duration of site works for any project. This reduction in the time frame can be up to 80 or 90% of the normal time frame needed in a conventional construction method.
Car parks availability in Beirut is part of the traffic issue as the citizens block involuntarily the traffic in search for a park place or wait for someone to leave. Double line parking can automatically vanish while allowing the present open car parks to become double floor parking structures using precast car parks.
Traffic issues all over the big cities are implying huge bills in fresh dollars and in loss of the domestic wealth.
Another important thing is related to shortening the routes at many places in Lebanon whether within cities or between the cities and departments in Lebanon.
Some examples studied in north Lebanon showed that we spend 40% more kilometers to get from Zgharta city to the main international road. Thousands of vehicles are doing this trajectory on a daily basis and this fact remained for more than 50 years and will remain for a century to come if no road shortening projects are implemented. The calculations showed the amount of money lost, the amount of pollution generated and the amount of precious human time and stress endured by our citizens.
The solutions are simple provided we start OBSERVING, ASSESSING, and then developing SIMPLE solutions.
If we can reduce the trajectory between 2 points distant of 100 km by only 10 km, and if we consider that only 10,000 cars use the road daily only one time and both ways, this will result in saving 200,000 km travel distance per day that results in 73 million km saved per year, 730 million km saved per decade and 0.73 billion km per century.
In the same spirit, trucks traffic at a thousand trucks per day will result in savings of 7 million km per year.
The shortening of the road will result into a yearly saving of:
- Around 15 million dollars of fuel costs
- Around 1 million dollars of vehicles maintenance
- Around 1.5 million hours of driving
- Around 1.5 million hours of productivity (1 free year of life for 170 persons)
- Around 32 mega tons of CO2
- Around 80 million MJ equivalent of heat released in the air contributing in hotter summers we feel in the cities. This released heat can generate 22 GWh of electrical power enough to cater for the annual needs of around 2,000 apartments.
As for internal transport issues within big cities like Beirut, Tripoli and Saida, Zahle and other cities, precast bridges are able to eradicate almost the majority of the traffic lights that are indirectly generating a lot of the pollution and producing time losses and increased stress within the citizens.
Multiple studies were conducted within the city of Beirut and within Tripoli city at the main congested areas like Aadliyyeh, the axis of Mirna Chalouhi, Jemmayzet in Tripoli, Nini hospital area. It turned out to be that the solutions can be implemented within several months (total duration of each project) while having impact on the traffic for a maximum of one week. Most of the works would be conducted during night time and where the traffic is not active.
Another daring idea is using the shore and the gulf of Jounieh to solve part of the traffic without touching the visuals of the city and its coastal shore line. A proposal was prepared in this regard where all the works will be in the sea and will not impact the present sensitive traffic.
An alternative less costly and daring solution would be the implementation of a series of short tunnels above Jounieh while linking Nakkash area to Tabarja.
Lebanon needs to ‘think out of the box’ to solve its problems. Due to its geographical nature and old city networks that are unable to be expanded, the ‘out of the box thinking’ will allow resolving its problems at a time when copying international solutions is almost impossible unless adapted to our local conditions.
Lebanon is so small in size that it is barely seen on the map and cannot impact the environment of the globe or any of the neighboring states. However, it can influence its own climate and environment and this can be seen in Tripoli and in Beirut where seeing the black clouds above the cities especially during morning time has become a familiar scene, far less during the corona crisis.
The big cities are producing so much pollution in the air that the winds are not able to dissipate them anymore especially when the wind is still.
- Our power plants are using heavy fuels forbidden in the developed countries
- The fuel used is charged with sulfur, very aggressive to the environment
- The machines and equipment in the power plants are old and fail to burn properly the fuels. Images taken from Zouk plant witness how bad the situation is
- The private generators dispersed in the streets are not meant to be located in cities and the compound level of emissions exiting from their exhausts is much higher than the ones from the public plants
- The cars circulating in the roads and especially trapped in the traffic worsen the situation
- The transport vehicles (mini buses, buses and trucks) are poisoning the air every minute
The solution is following the systems detailed in previous chapters and adopting the following:
- Electric cars
- Electric buses
- Electric trains
- Power plants running on gas, and better replace all fuel plants with PV farms
- Wind mills in Akkar and in Hermel
PV farms: a study showed that the 2 billion USD spent every year for the purchase of the heavy fuel polluting our lives and draining our national fortune can contribute into the purchase and installation of PV farms for a bit less than the needs of Lebanon and would cover about 15 hours of power per day. This means a saving of 2 billion USD per year for the life span of the PV farms. The maintenance cost of the farms is so negligible and can amount at the most at 5% of the purchase cost. Besides, the cost of PV is becoming cheaper and PV farms are becoming more performing.
PV farms can be implemented in the mountains where their efficiency can be higher and less exposed to humidity which reflects part of the power of the sun. PV farms can be implemented by individuals and within establishments like schools, universities, hospitals, governmental building, and factories that have large roof areas and external parking spaces that can be covered with PV arrays harvesting sun rays and providing shades for the cars at the same time.
Lebanon benefits from an average of 12 hours of sunlight per day and of about 300 days of sunshine in addition to a 35 degrees inclination due to its latitude reducing the reflection of sun rays compared to northern European states that succeeded in providing a huge part of their need in power from PV farms. This is a good indicator that if we invest in PV, half of the farms are needed compared to Germany.
From a supply point of view, China can provide in no time what is needed for Lebanon’s market. So practically, the power issue in Lebanon can be solved in a year or so if opened to the public sector. The improvement can be seen in power generation on a monthly basis as the projects by hundreds are implemented.
PV street light for instance can save up to 10 million dollars per year and hundreds of tons of CO2 emissions.
This document is a welcome introduction to all young and devoted Lebanese citizens who are willing to bring a change in our daily life that started to feel like a burden.