Thursday, April 17, 2014

Claims of corruption add to Al-Qaa water woes -- & more

AL-QAA, Lebanon: On a warm spring day in the Bekaa Valley town of Al-Qaa, Hana Rizk stood outside his neighbor’s one-story house, a tired grimace on his face from coping with the town’s insufficient water supply.
“The water came for two hours today,” Rizk said with quiet anger. “The last time it was turned on was two days ago and now it probably won’t come for another two to three days. How much use can we get out of two hours of water?”
Many residents in Lebanon’s semi-arid Bekaa Valley have received what they say are inadequate amounts of water in recent months, a situation attributed to complications including the lack of precipitation this past winter and the torrential influx of refugees from neighboring Syria.
The water concern is magnified in Al-Qaa, a Greek Catholic town 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, by tales of mismanagement and accusations of corruption among the town’s municipal water committee.
The Bekaa Valley is Lebanon’s driest region and normally receives an average of up to 600mm of rainfall each year. And as summer rapidly approaches fears of drought are escalating because the region has only received 240 milimeters of rainfall, making 2014 the driest in 100 years.
Deadly fish thriving in Lebanon's waters

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: At 1 p.m. on this sunny Thursday afternoon, Tripoli fishermen Ibrahim Shehade and Ishaac Sidawi should be out at sea. Instead, they sit forlornly watching cars pass by on the Mina sea road.
There is no work for them on the water, something they blame on the recent boom of rapidly spawning and lethal puffer fish – neffaykh in Arabic – in the sea their families have trawled for generations.
“There’s a war going on in Tripoli, both at land and at sea,” says Sidawi, 27, despondently.
Sitting next to him, the older, more pensive Shehade, 39, adds: “This puffer fish is causing us fishermen a lot of damage because it’s eating smaller fish and ripping our nets. On top of this, they say it’s poisonous, so we can’t sell it.”
The fish could also be described as opportunistic as it eats other fish caught in nets, effectively taking away the fishermen’s catch as well as ruining their gear.
Armenians mourn rebel take over of Kasab in Syria

BEIRUT: Seated outside the clothes shop in Burj Hammoud where he works, Syrian-Armenian Ararad Mahdesian gazes into the distance, reminiscing about the place he still calls home.
“I had beautiful days in Kasab. I was born there and I am from there,” the 25-year-old says solemnly, referring to a town in northwest Syria that was overrun by rebels less than two weeks ago while he wasn’t there.
Located on the border with Turkey, Kasab is a historical town with an ethnic Armenian population that dates back to the medieval Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Until the civil war, Kasab was a tourist destination mostly inhabited by farmers.
Now, like so many places in Syria, it has all changed.
Mahdesian says his 65-year-old father was one of the last people to leave Kasab, and that his relatives are now in Latakia with around 600 other families who all fled due to the rebel attack.
Chimp rescued from zoo after eight year struggle

 BEIRUT: An animal rights group confiscated Lebanon’s last imprisoned chimpanzee from a zoo over the weekend, nine years after it was smuggled into the country.
Accompanied by seven police officers and a court clerk, Animals Lebanon entered a zoo along the Nahr al-Kalb river Saturday and took Charlie the chimp into their care in a court-approved operation supported by the Agriculture Ministry that took around 30 minutes.
“Charlie, a 9-year-old chimpanzee, was smuggled to Lebanon in 2005 and sold from a pet shop before ending up in Animal City zoo,” said a press release from Animals Lebanon. “The Ministry of Agriculture declared in 2006 that Charlie was smuggled into Lebanon and that no permits have been issued for his importation. An attempted confiscation in early 2006 failed after the zoo removed Charlie the day before the confiscation was to take place.”
Central Beirut brought to standstill as politicians gather

BEIRUT: Roads in Beirut’s Downtown were blocked Tuesday for the first day of a three-day Parliament session, causing traffic jams, enraging motorists and debilitating nearby businesses.
Banks Street closed to motorists at 7 a.m. and remained closed until the end of the first legislative session in the late afternoon, with security forces cordoning off the perimeter of Downtown. Roads were also closed leading to Riad Solh Square, and a roadblock was set up by the An-Nahar building on the other side of Downtown.
Closure of roads in central Beirut is common when Lebanon’s Parliament meets, with many of the roads that pass through Downtown blocked off by security forces in a bid to minimize the possibility of terrorist attacks and political assassinations, making life hellish for the city’s commuters.
Seething and staring ahead at the traffic jam, Leah, 30, jested, “I want to kill [Parliament] for this.”