Innovative Knowledge Management Approach to Alleviate River Pollution in Lebanon (IKMAAR)
Ministry of Environment

The Problem

With the issuance of the Environmental Parliamentary Commission’s recommendation to the Council of Ministers in 2004 to “diagnose the pollution problem of the Litani river and Qaraoun lake (the biggest lake in Lebanon (220 millions of cubic meters)) and recommend the necessary mitigation measures”, and the subsequent recommendation of the Inter-Ministerial Committee in 2006 to “prepare a business plan for combating pollution of the Qaraoun lake”, Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment faced many challenges in 2009/2010 (after developmental activities resumed in the country) in conceptualizing and designing a management approach that would capture and synthesize all related previous studies and reports and propose a systematic and practical way forward, without being criticized for undertaking yet another study.

More than 30 documents, in the form of projects’ studies and reports, scientific articles, academic theses, etc., were published by a number of institutions during the past 20 years about pollution of the Qaraoun lake. However, there has not been any initiative to look at existing documents in an integrated way for the purpose of clearly diagnosing the problem while engaging all stakeholders to assess the enabling environment and outline integrated solutions with their respective costs along with a prioritization strategy. Such a knowledge management approach is crucial for translating studies and policy into action.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The solution consisted of an integrated vertical and horizontal knowledge management approach that led to a document titled “Business Plan for Combating Pollution of the Qaraoun Lake”. The management approach and the business plan reflected the ministry’s continued commitment to managing environmental risks while preserving Lebanon’s natural capita, through adopting scientific and practical guidelines, establishing a partnership with the public and private sectors and promoting participatory approaches to public administration activities. The main successes could be classified under three headings: effectively delivering the recommendations of the legislative and the executive authorities; designing a new management approach to environmental challenges and optimizing knowledge sharing in government.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The vertical or technical management approach consisted of four key steps:

1. The first step was to undertake a thorough review of existing plans, programs, projects, studies and reports in the area of study, complemented by a field survey to acquire all missing data (municipal; industrial; farmers and agricultural input suppliers; complementary and confirmatory river and lake, water and sediments, sampling…).

2. The second step consisted of translating the collected data into maps and tables of pollution pressures and database of medium (river and lake) state, and accordingly analyzing the situation.

3. The third step was to assess the enabling environment (institutional, legal and financial) for the various pressure sectors (solid waste, wastewater, agriculture, etc.).

4. The final step consisted of identifying the possible solutions and mitigation measures for all sectors, along with assessing respective costs and undertaking a prioritization strategy.

The complementary horizontal management approach, or participatory approach, consisted of engaging the various stakeholders throughout the four steps of the technical knowledge management above, as follows:

1. Knowledge management within the Ministry of Environment, through the formation of a coordination committee that grouped the heads of the Ministry’s technical departments, thus representing all disciplines; the committee met on a regular basis to assess work progress and exchange information, knowledge and experience.

2. Knowledge management between the MoE and other public agencies (e.g. National Council for Scientific Research, Council for Development and Reconstruction, Litani River Authority, etc.) or other Ministries (e.g. Ministry of Energy and Water, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry, etc.) through bi-lateral meetings to access existing studies and reports and discuss related past, current and prospect plans, programs and projects and thus establish the database described in step 2 above.

3. Knowledge management between the MoE and local authorities (municipalities, etc.), where the various towns and municipalities in the area of study (99 towns represented by about 60 municipalities) were involved in the survey discussed in step 1 above, through questionnaires and sites’ visits.

4. Knowledge management between the MoE and the private sector; where a total of 294 industrial establishments were located during the filed survey and a total of 105 farmers were interviewed. Findings were assessed in light of current initiatives to incentivize polluters to comply with environmental standards.

5. Knowledge management between the MoE and the NGOs and citizens at large, through a workshop that was held in the area of study few weeks after the preparation of the business plan was initiated and where the fore-mentioned methodology was presented, discussed and later refined based on comments and feedback.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
See above.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
See above.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Accessing information (previous studies, reports, etc.) was challenging, and so was the coordination of complementary data needed. This was overcome by extensive communication between the initiative management, consultants and stakeholders (meetings, phone calls, e-mails, letters, etc.)

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
About 25 experts were involved in this initiative which was funded by the Government of Lebanon (~ 173,000 USD), managed by the United Nations Development Program, with the technical assistance of a Lebanese environmental consultancy firm, Earth Link & Advanced Resources Development (ELARD), between July 2010 and June 2011.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The “Business Plan for Combating Pollution of the Qaraoun Lake”, result of the innovative knowledge management approach of the MoE, was completed on the eve of the formation of the new government in Lebanon (June 2011). The official launching, which was foreseen for the last week of June in coordination with the Environmental Parliamentary Commission, national stakeholders and international development partners, was therefore delayed.

This, however, has not prevented the official recognition of the importance of such a knowledge management approach as it has been included in the ministerial declaration of the new government, which has, and for the first time, emphasized the importance of promoting the environmental management of basins. Accordingly, the current action plan of the MoE comprises basins environmental management as one of its 15 pillars, with Qaraoun basin as a priority (for implementation) in the short-term and replicability of the approach in other basins for the medium/ long term.

The official launching finally took place on September 5, 2011 at the Parliament in the presence of the Environmental Parliamentary Commission and other MPs, representatives of line ministries, unions of municipalities and international development partners. Participants welcomed this new management approach and invited the Ministry of Environment to propose a program law for implementation. Details can be checked on

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The main impact of the initiative was the introduction of a new knowledge management model, applied to the environmental management of water basins.

Among the main lessons learned was the need to build a national portal of studies and reports, which would facilitate the preparation of such plans in the future and accordingly save on time and resources.

This innovative approach to knowledge management re-shed the light on the importance of coordination between stakeholders from both the public and the private sectors to optimize resources.

Last but not least, this initiative re-stressed the need to have a well-designed and managed environmental monitoring network: surface and groundwater quantity and quality, wastewater discharge data, leachate from sanitary landfills...

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Environment
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Manal Moussallem
Title:   Senior Environmental Advisor  
Telephone/ Fax:   +9613626708
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Downtown Beirut
Postal Code:   11-2727
City:   Beirut
Country:   Lebanon

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