|22 July, 2019

Lebanon's Sidon to get power boost from Zahrani plant: minister

The plant will increase electricity output in the district by 500 megawatts by 2023

Natural gas fired turbine power plant with it's cooling towers rising into a cloud filled blue sky. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Natural gas fired turbine power plant with it's cooling towers rising into a cloud filled blue sky. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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BEIRUT: A new power plant set to be built in Zahrani will increase the district of Sidon’s supply and lead to fewer hours of cuts for its residents, Energy and Water Minister Nada Boustani said over the weekend.

The plant will benefit the southern district’s residents by increasing electricity output in the district by 500 megawatts by 2023, the minister said during a conference held Saturday to address infrastructure and utilities in the area.

Sidon’s electricity network has been boosted by a new main substation that came online on Feb. 2 and transforms electricity from high voltage (220 kilovolts) to medium voltage (typically 1-69 kV), helping maintain a more regular power supply for homes and businesses.

Additional transmission facilities and voltage transformers are set to be developed to come online in tandem with the increase in output from the Zahrani plant, according to the government’s new electricity plan.

During the conference, the minister also addressed challenges related to the water supply in the area, highlighting the risks posed by sourcing water from groundwater wells, from which most of Sidon’s supply is drawn.

“Sidon depends on supply from groundwater wells, which could pose a risk of salinization if overused,” Boustani said.

Heightened salinity can have negative consequences on agricultural production, irrigation and flood risks, among other things.

As part of its five-year water strategy to secure “water for everyone,” the South Lebanon Water Establishment is currently working on digging and developing freshwater springs.

Wassim Daher, the establishment’s head, told The Daily Star that it was making the shift from groundwater wells to springs for two main reasons.

First, he said, the operating cost of springs was much lower. Second, the groundwater wells were under a lot of pressure, raising concerns of saltwater entering and contaminating the water supply.

The minister also raised the issue of untreated sewage being pumped into the sea near Sidon.

Daher has said the South Lebanon Water Establishment is working to address this issue.

“There is wastewater treatment in Sidon in the pipeline ... and we are currently carrying out a feasibility study,” he said.

During the conference, Sidon Mayor Mohammad al-Saudi called on the Lebanese government to give more support to cities other than the capital, such as Sidon and Tripoli, in order to complement the work of local authorities.

The minister added: “Sidon is the gateway to the south, and its beautiful waterfront deserves all our attention to ensure that it enjoys a healthy and clean environment.”

Boustani pledged to improve wastewater treatment across Lebanon, saying she had sent a memo to Interior Minister Raya El Hassan asking her to instruct municipalities to prevent rainwater from mixing with sewage so that the former could be used to boost water supply.

The minister Friday opened a new wastewater plant in Zahle that was funded by a 20 million euro ($16.5 million) donation from the Italian Embassy.

Earlier Saturday, the minister toured Sidon’s tourist and heritage sites with local lawmaker Bahia Hariri, including Khan al-Franj and the Soap Museum.

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