NEW YORK – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) a grant of $4.8 million for its waste management and sewage treatment programs in rural Lebanon.
The funds will be distributed over three years beginning in July 2003 and will benefit more than 153,000 Lebanese in 97 villages and towns. The funds will further village redevelopment projects sponsored by CNEWA – a programinitiated immediately after Lebanon’s civil war to restore the country’s interconfessional balance.
The solid and water waste management program will provide cost-effective solutions to pollution problems endemic in rural areas throughout the Middle Eastern country. The uncontrolled spread of waste in Lebanon’s valleys, rivers and streams has polluted the country’s water supply, contaminated irrigation projects and adversely affected the landscape.
CNEWA has specifically targeted two districts that will build, operate and maintain sewage treatment plants and share about 40 percent of the cost. They are the Chouf district in central Lebanon, which will have 9 sewage treatment plants and 1 solid waste treatment plant for 12 villages, and Jbeil,in the north, which will have 1 solid waste treatment plant for 85 villages,serving 120,000 people.
“The grant will create 38 permanent jobs that will run the facilities.Temporary employment will also be created,” said Issam Bishara, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Technical training will be provided, he said, and partnerships with educational institutions will be created.
An important component of the program, Mr. Bishara added, will be to educate and inform the public about the health advantages of the treatment facilities and the benefits of a clean water supply.
Msgr. Robert L. Stern, CNEWA’s Secretary General, said, “We are grateful for USAID’s assistance. We can identify the problems. We know the solutions, but we must rely on government agencies for necessary funding.”
CNEWA was among four non-governmental organizations that shared in a total disbursement of $15.3 million for waste management in rural Lebanon. The other three are the Cooperative Housing Foundation, Mercy Corps International and Young Men’s Christian Association.
The program promotes sound environmental practices and complements other CNEWA initiatives in Lebanon, namely agricultural improvements, irrigation projects, village development and sustainable tourism.
Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA is a special agency of the Vatican providing support to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Projects include needy child, seminary and novice sponsorship programs; village redevelopment; health care and education; and interfaith dialogue.