SIDON, Lebanon: Around 300 supporters of the Popular Nasserite Movement occupied the Sidon Water Authority building for an hour Thursday to protest severe water shortages.
Some of the protesters stormed the building and proceeded into the hallways and offices, while others gathered in the inner courtyard. The protesters, who were led by the movement’s leader Osama Saad, accused the Director General of the Sidon Water Authority, Ahmad Nizam, of mismanagement and of purposely cutting off water from the city and surrounding villages.
They said that Nizam gave orders to halt the water pumping engines to save fuel due to a shortage. They also said that Sidon is one of the few cities in Lebanon where most residents actually pay the annual state fees for water, demanding that they receive what they have paid for.
A statement issued by protesters criticized the government’s negligence, singling out Energy Minister Gebran Bassil in particular.
“Where are the millions we have paid in water fees? The money went into the gutters of waste and corruption. Where is the Energy Minister? Where is the government?” the statement continued.
Internal Security Forces personnel, who quickly arrived at the scene, did not prevent the protesters from entering the building but did however remain on the premises.
Azza Hijazi, a spokesperson for the protesters, said that although the water tanks are full, many residents of Sidon are getting water for only one hour per day. Hijazi added that Sidon residents have called repeatedly for a solution to the problem.
“We have suffered unbearably due to water shortages. We warn the authority against continuing in cutting off water. Enough injustice; let there be water for everyone,” Hijazi told The Daily Star.
Ahmad Wehbi, a Sidon resident, said that he is sometimes forced to bathe in the river rather than at home even though he pays the annual fee for water.
A number of protesters washed their children in view of everyone with the authority’s water. One woman bathed her young son in the courtyard with a water hose used to water plants at the office.
“The last time we had water shortage for such a long time was during the Israeli occupation. Why this injustice? Who is responsible for it?” asked Umm Ismail Haffouda, another protester at the Water Authority.
Protesters eventually made their way into Nizam’s office and angrily aired their complaints, eventually gaining a promise that he would look into their demands.