Climate change boosts drought and floods

droughts and floods
droughts and floods in North Lebanon

There is a seemingly natural incline, among most, to an inexplicable fascination with the weather. Its mention in most casual conversations proves both a simple ice-breaker and a curious insight into human thinking. With the growing frequency of natural disasters brought about by climate change, however, the weather appears to be giving us more to talk about than we would have bargained for.

The technicality regarding the nature of climate change may be up for discussion; that there is a drastic change in our planet's climate, however, should not be. Extreme weather records are being broken every year, with the repercussions of such hydro-meteorological disasters claiming countless lives as they disrupt the integrity and efficiency of national economies.
To most Lebanese, though, the immediate effects of such drastic change in climate condition may not be strikingly apparent. To the inhabitants of the Baalbeck-Hermel region, it has become a troubling reality.
It is to this effect that UNDP, through funding from the Spanish government, has launched a project on flood risk management and water conservation in Baalbeck-Hermel.

Highlights

  • Flooding in the area has been brought about by irregularities in the region's rainfall. There is an observed calamitous deviation in traditional patterns owing to the steady rise in global temperatures.
  • The project has so far erected several large check dams in addition to numerous contour bunds and stone walls, in tactically selected locations, intended to effectively minimize the effects of the floods.

Flooding in the area has been brought about by irregularities in the region's
rainfall. There is an observed calamitous deviation in traditional patterns owing to the steady rise in global temperatures. This leads to an increase in the frequency of intense rainfall events and a subsequent alteration in the integrity of catchments and drainage basins. Effectively, the increase in the amount of rainfall during the winters leads to detrimental flood-generating rainfall events being far more frequent and destructive than had previously been the case.
"With an average of 1 to 2 cases of severe flooding occurring annually in the
area," explains the UNDP project manager Hassan Machlab, the effects of climate change are contributing to “the detriment of an area already under threat,especially in regards to desertification."
The region's semi-arid land means that the rate of absorption of the excess water is too low. To add to that, the lack of vegetation means that there are no roots to absorb the water, no leaves to diffract the rainfall and no obstructions to the water flow.
The flash floods in question, the most disastrous of which occurred as recently as 2001, lead to road cuts, destruction in infrastructure, substantial damage in crop and livestock in addition to the severe soil erosion.
Having completed its first phase, the project has so far erected several large check dams in addition to numerous contour bunds and stone walls, in tactically selected locations, intended to effectively minimize the effects of the floods.
"We are being realistic about the matter. If we can cut the velocity of the flooding by 50 to 60 percent, that it would be a significant achievement" continued Mr Machlab.
In addition to the reduction in flood effects, the soil around the stone walls
provides itself as an ideal environment for cultivation. "We intend to plant cherry trees, which are common and economically beneficial in the region, around the lining of the walls so as to soak up all the surplus water and such that the locals may also benefit from the fruit" described Mr. Machlab.