The failure of successive governments to address the electricity crisis in Lebanon and the serious repercussions it poses to the productive sectors prompted Human Rights Watch, for the first time in its history, to classify the citizen’s right to obtain electricity as one of the social and economic human rights, and to consider that the Lebanese authorities are committing a gross violation of human rights. Human through its disastrous management of the electricity sector.
In a precedent that was welcomed by the Lebanese public opinion, the international organization issued a detailed report on the electricity crisis in Lebanon, based on the results of a 113-page study that included 1,200 Lebanese families, through which it revealed how the lack of electricity exacerbates poverty and inequality in Lebanese society, and its impact on The ability of citizens to obtain food, water and health care in addition to the impact on the environment and people’s health.
The report, entitled “As if you are interrupting life: Lebanon’s failure to guarantee the right to electricity”, states that the Lebanese authorities have failed to guarantee the “right to electricity”, due to their mismanagement of the sector for 30 years, and this limits the access of the Lebanese to their basic rights such as the right in water, education and health care.
Based on a large-scale, representative survey of the situation of Lebanese households and interviews with energy experts, the report revealed how the Lebanese population has adapted to the failure of the state to provide more than an hour or two of electricity per day, and the percentage that individuals allocate from their income to obtain electricity from private sources. , and how this system exacerbates inequality in the country, and the impact of the lack of electricity on people’s ability to achieve their most basic rights, which pushes them into more poverty.
A high percentage of those surveyed said that the power outage affected their ability to carry out normal household tasks related to rights, such as obtaining water, cooking food, participating in education and work activities, and paying for medical and other vital services.
Meanwhile, a fifth of the families, who are the poorest of those interviewed, said that they cannot provide electricity from the generator, which puts them in the dark for many hours a day, as the generator bills represent about 44 percent of the average monthly income of the family, and double that for families the poorest in the country.
Human Rights Watch cited the average monthly income for Lebanon at $122, with 40 percent of households earning about $100 or less per month and 90 percent earning less than $377 per month.
The report indicated that the dependence of the electricity system in Lebanon on heavy fuel oil stations and diesel generators contributed to air pollution significantly, which severely affected the environment and caused severe repercussions on the health of the population, and led to the death of thousands of them every year, according to Greenpeace data. .
He pointed out that the Lebanese government did not invest in renewable energy sources, although it estimated that Lebanon’s resources of solar energy and wind energy could supply the country many times its energy needs, as the share of renewable energy sources in 2019 in the total electricity production in Lebanon reached 7.83 percent. percent, of which 0.73 percent comes from solar energy and 1.82 percent from hydroelectric power.
In the context, the director of the Middle East and North Africa department at Human Rights Watch, Lama Fakih, confirmed that the burden of the energy shortage in Lebanon is disproportionately borne by the poor, pointing out that the reason for the organization’s focus on the electricity crisis to the exclusion of other crises in Lebanon is that its solution is considered key. Necessary precedes the solution of other crises that the Lebanese citizen struggles with daily, adding that the school crisis cannot be resolved if electricity is not available, as is the case with the hospital, medicine and other crises.
She gave an example of the suffering of some families, according to the study, and said, “Some families are forced to choose between feeding their children or buying medicine, because of the money they waste to pay generators in exchange for about five to six hours of electricity per day.” She explained that the organization “needed some time to analyze and delve into the study before presenting its results because of the huge amount of data it obtained.”
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It revealed that politicians and people associated with the political class use the electricity sector to advance their political goals, by distributing jobs in this state-run company to reap huge profits from lucrative contracts, often at the expense of the state, and profit from the private generator sector.
On the other hand, an official source in the Ministry of Energy considered that the “Human Rights Watch” statement is a political statement aimed at correcting the ministry’s plan to improve the electric supply through its work to lift the encroachments on the electrical network and carry out administrative and technical reforms.
He pointed out that the EDL has improved the feeding hours, based on the emergency plan announced by the Ministry of Energy, according to which it was given a treasury advance to import fuel and increase feeding to about four hours per day.
And he considered that what the ministry did in terms of raising prices and developing a plan to improve collection was supposed to be mentioned in the statement of the international organization and not just describe the situation and throw accusations, calling on Human Rights Watch to mention the Caesar Act, which in his opinion was one of the main reasons for obstructing the extraction of energy from Jordan and gas from Egypt.
And at the beginning of last month, the new energy pricing entered into force, and prices became 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 100 kilowatts, and 27 cents per kilowatt-hour for consumption above that, in addition to a fixed monthly tariff of 21 US cents per amp and $4.3 as a qualification allowance, while The cost of a kilowatt-hour was previously 135 Lebanese pounds, and a fee allowance of about 25 thousand pounds, meaning that the value of the bills ranged between 50 and 300 thousand pounds per month, while the current rate is between three and four million Lebanese pounds, in addition to the bill for private generators, which amounts to 10 million pounds for a subscription of five amps only.
And the matter does not stop at this point, as the new price is not fixed, as it will be calculated on the exchange rate of the “Sarafa” platform, which now exceeds 73 thousand pounds to the US dollar, plus 20 percent.
We will not pay
The sharp rise in electricity prices and the limitation of feeding hours to a few hours during the day prompted a large number of citizens to announce their refusal to pay bills and to launch a campaign under the slogan “We Don’t Pay” to protest against what they considered chaos and discretion in pricing.
Attorney Richard Chamoun, one of the activists and participants in the “Not Defending” campaign, considers that what is happening is a great injustice against the people, and therefore civil disobedience is necessary, i.e. peaceful, civilized resistance that falls within the framework of the democratic practice of the duties and rights of citizens.
He explains that in the name of the Electricité du Liban Corporation, it has consumed $40 billion from the citizen as a minimum of theft and waste, according to what the World Bank indicates, and those in charge of this corporation are still stealing and wasting public money, and this is a crime that must be combated and its damage must be eliminated.