Lights Off Lebanon

Inaas
Age of Awareness
Published in
3 min readAug 19, 2021
Example of schedule (varies daily) shared in the WhatsApp group by the diesel generator owner. Electricity available from 10.30am to 12pm and from 4pm to 6pm. The last sentence reads: “the night depends on the amount of fuel.”

It’s hot and it’s crisis. Lebanon wins the lottery in terms of collecting crises. The country even made it in the top 10 most severe crises globally since mid-19th century as ranked by the World Bank.

Electricity crisis? Check.

Economic crisis? Check.

Banking crisis? Check.

Financial crisis? Check.

Social crisis? Check.

Political crisis? Check.

Health crisis? Check.

Waste management crisis? Check.

All are convoluted and interlinked and the direct sources are longstanding records of corruption and clientelism by those in charge.

The ruling political class seems to deliberately refrain from acting to reverse the deepening cycle of crises. As of last weekend, the nation plunged into further darkness after the Lebanese central bank lifted subsidies on fuel.

The result is a failing nation, putting more than 4 million lives at risk: from hospital patients reliant on lifesaving medical devices to drivers on unlighted roads at night to the elderly and vulnerable stuck in their apartments without functioning AC nor elevator. In addition to illegal stocking of fuel at risk of explosion and endless, disorganized queues in front of gas stations causing deathly accidents.

Electricity cuts not only interrupt life at home and for businesses; having to adapt to the unpredictable cycle of electricity is also a source of stress and frustration. In the 21st century, electricity is not only a technical service but more so an essential part of daily life bringing a sense of dignity and humanity.

Chronic shortages of electricity supply are not new; before the current crisis the national electricity utility, Electricité du Liban (EDL), maintained a daily 3 hour blackout in Beirut. In 2021, receiving national electricity for 3 hours is to be considered a miracle in itself.

Corruption and clientelism enable diesel generator owners to operate on their own conditions, that is: unregulated, and without accountability. The owners benefit from the government’s “incapability” to provide electricity and the people’s lack of trust in the government and its institutions. The government benefits from the mafia-run generator owners as a way to absolve responsibility from long overdue reforms to the electricity sector.

Diesel generators are not a sustainable nor reliable solution. In recent months with the fuel shortages affecting generators and national electricity alike. The shortages are related to the economic crisis and the subsequent shortages in foreign currency as the local currency, the Lebanese Lira, continues to devaluate while fuel has to be imported in foreign currency. With the electricity supply in Lebanon being highly dependent on heavy fuel oil and diesel oil, the country is living the consequences during the hottest months of the year. Meanwhile people pay the bills for so-called national electricity and the ever increasing bill to receive electricity from a shared diesel generator.

Further to this, generators are loud and heavily polluting. They are also not affordable to all, especially amidst rising poverty. They epitomize the blatant incompetence and failure of the government in providing basic services that each Lebanese citizens would benefit from including 24/7 electricity for the capital.

When the electricity turns off, people light candles and play games or tell stories instead of watching a movie or series. Perhaps a break from electricity sounds harmonious, a moment to reflect on the day and on life.

Perhaps it would be — if turning off electricity was a choice out of environmental considerations instead of the result of years of neglect and inadequate governance of those holding power and their entourage.

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Inaas
Age of Awareness

Collection of daily observations & conversations. Typically from Beirut and around.