The Middle Eastern Garden

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I hear leaves drinking rain;

I hear rich leaves on top

Giving the poor beneath

Drop after drop;

‘Tis a sweet noise to hear

These green leaves drinking near.

And when the Sun comes out,

After this Rain shall stop,

A wondrous Light will fill

Each dark, round drop;

I hope the Sun shines bright;

‘Twill be a lovely sight.

(The Rain by William Henry Davies)

Water is one of Lebanon’s most precious resources. Its history, its geography, and its past civilizations were all based on the land’s richness in water and its geographical location. Water has played and still does a major role in the life of the country and the whole Middle East, which makes Lebanon the only Middle Eastern garden.

Unfortunately, while significant investments are made to tap water resources, very little is done to preserve it. Human activities exert strong pressures on both the quantity (water abstraction) and quality (water pollution) of water resources. In addition, many activities affect the water cycle (deforestation, dams, irrigation, drainage canals) thereby altering the conditions for water replenishment.

Lebanon is in a relatively fortunate hydrological position. It is estimated from isohyet maps that the yearly precipitation results in an average yearly flow of 8,600 million cubic meter, giving rise to major streams and rivers. Despite this seemingly abundant recourse, Lebanon is poised to experience a water deficit within 10-15 years, unless sound and radical water management policies are developed and implemented. Water stress in neighboring countries including Syria, Jordan, the occupied territories, and Palestine is a harsh reminder that Lebanon must rethink its water strategy in the shortest delay possible, protect water resources and use them more judiciously.

Several studies have estimated the annual water balance in Lebanon. approximately 50 percent of the average yearly precipitation is lost through evapotranspiration, while additional losses include surface water flows to neighboring countries and ground water seepage. the water problem in Lebanon is not that of availability of water, as much as it is related to the mismanagement and lack of integrity in the sector’s practices.

Lebanon’s rivers: Nahr al kabir al janoubi, Astoun River, Arqa River, Nahr al-Bared, Kadisha River, Al Jawz River, Abraham River, Nahr al-Kalb, Beirut River, Daoun River, Awali River, Siniq River, Zahrani River, Litani River, Asi River, Hasbani River.

Some rivers and areas’ names like Nahr al Kalb which Flows north of Beirut are steeped in history. Nahr al Kalb takes its name, according to some, from the circumstance that the Avites formerly dwelt in this district, and had, as their god, the idol Nibchaz, who is said to have been figured as a dog. It had anciently the name of Licius (Lykos).

The Bekaa Valley on the other hand is watered by two rivers that rise in the watershed near Baalbek: the Orontes flowing north (Nahr al Asi, “the Rebel River”, because of its unusual direction), and the Litani flowing south into the hill region of the southern Bekaa Valley, where it makes an abrupt turn to the west in Southern Lebanon and is thereafter called the Al Qasmiyah River.

The Orontes continues to flow north into Syria and eventually reaches the Mediterranean in Turkey. Its waters, for much of its course, flow through a channel considerably lower than the surface of the ground. The Nahr Barada, which waters Damascus, has as its source a spring in the Anti-Lebanon Mounatins.

Smaller springs and streams serve as tributaries to the principal rivers. Because the rivers and streams have such steep gradients and are so fast moving, they are erosive instead of depository in nature. This process is aided by the soft character of the limestone that composes much of the mountains, the steep slopes of the mountains, and the heavy rainstorms. The only permanent lake is Buhayrat al Qirawn, about ten kilometers east of Jezzine. There is one seasonal lake, fed by springs, on the eastern slopes of the Lebanon Mountains near Yammunah, about 40 kilometres southeast of Tripoli.

Clear, gushing currents make their way through mossy boulders. It is the river that tells the tales of life in a never-ending flowing pattern of liveliness. Water goes round and round from the sky to the ground, in a cycle of natural beauty.

In the sky, water cools,forming clouds around the beautiful mountains of Lebanon. Rain and hail, sleet and snow, water falls and plants grow. It fills up our lakes, rivers, streams, and seas.

To my Land and all its natural resources…

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