Blackout Beirut: The Recent Electricity Crisis in Lebanon

I felt like I was in a war zone this past weekend when the power in Beirut kept circulating between three hours of grid connection and three hours of grid disconnection. Perhaps the “highlight” of my day was trying to shower using a lit candle as your only source of light.

I am used to electricity outages. I am from a village in Northern Lebanon where more than 12 hours of coverage per day is seen by many as some form of the second coming of Christ. But in my village in North Lebanon, I have a “moteur” subscription which fills in the many blanks left by the electricity we should get from our dear state. In my Achrafieh neighborhood, however, you don’t have “moteur” providers because you never needed them before. Add to that grandparents who have been through weeks and weeks of no-electricity during the civil war and it makes the three hours tolerable for a power-needing person like me.

But no matter, as Beirut cycled between Beirut-on and Beirut-off in three hour turns, even the iPhone app to track the outages didn’t work anymore. And I had no idea what was happening until I watched the news and saw that workers from South Lebanon had apparently decided to strike at the Zahrani Power Plant. A little delving into this and a political nature of the strike is also revealed. Nearby municipalities supported the decision of the plant’s “workers” for strike. The “apparent” cause? Electricite du Liban (EDL) decided to move a 40 MVA transformer from the Plant to the nearby city of Saida.

Part of the news report I watched has Southerners complain about them being “left out,” about them being “targeted” by the Lebanese state with only few hours of coverage per day. My initial reaction was: are they [insert obscene word] kidding me?

Let’s get  a few things straight.

1) The Southerners are not the only people who have suffered in Lebanon. It’s 2011. The Israelis left 11 years ago. The July 2006 war happened, well, in 2006. We all stood by them through all of their Israel-related misery. We harbored them in our schools, gave them food from our homes and did what any proper citizen would do. They can stop accusing the whole country of targeting them whenever something doesn’t go their way.

2) I get as much coverage as they do in my village in North Lebanon and yet you don’t find me storming power plants and cutting power for those who have it. This is NOT the way you solve things.

3) Apparently our beloved minister Gebran Bassil (whom we, in my caza, voted against a bunch of times and yet always found in power) couldn’t even get the political parties behind the “workers” to get them to stop their “strike.” This begs the question: if the minister of energy, who’s also a proud ally of those political parties, can’t reign them in, then who can? This also raises doubt on exactly how far Aoun can control Hezbollah. Mr. Aoun was always proud of being Hezbollah’s main ally in the country, believing that Hezbollah did whatever Aoun wanted. Well, not always, is it?

4) Now that our prime minister Miqati has apparently sorted things out, the question asks itself: what if Hezbollah decides to act out again? what’s there to stop them? If their own allies can’t do anything against them then who can? What’s to stop this whole “I can do whatever I want and you can’t do anything about it” mentality that they have?

As I came back to my Achrafieh neighborhood at 6 pm today, I was struck by how dark it was. Few were the buildings that had lights in them. The streets were dark. The people were gloomy. I couldn’t wait to go back home to North Lebanon where there was actually light and mind you, my house in Achrafieh is exactly halfway between St. George’s and Geitawi hospitals – you’d think an area where two hospitals were located would get some preferential treatment. But no matter. A friend in Jal El Dib had 8 minutes of electricity all day today. A friend in Mansourieh a little more than 8 minutes but also a dismal amount. And yet, you don’t find us storming roads, burning tires, calling for strikes in power plants in our regions. It’s not that we couldn’t do that. The easiest thing to do is spur violence. What’s not easy, however, is to suck it up and work on fixing the electricity situation, which has been coexistent with our life as far as I can remember, with a radical solution, not ruin whatever few megawatts other people get.

And this is one of the reasons, dear Hezbollah, I can never – ever – support you.

But you know what’s interesting? Out of all the governments that have been ruling the country since 2005, this is probably the most dysfunctional one. What’s sad? It’s one-sided and made up mostly of those who want to change and reform. Well, here’s how it goes: over promise, under-give, the system blows up, blame others.

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6 thoughts on “Blackout Beirut: The Recent Electricity Crisis in Lebanon

  1. 1) The people of the South never claimed that they where the only ones to suffer in Lebanon.

    “We all stood by them through all of their Israel-related misery” not true buddy they have the FPM to thank for standing with them in the July War definetly not the LF.
    also who of the “Southerners” exactly accused the “whole” country of targeting them? If you are obsessed with us it’s not our fault.

    2) Nobody stormed any power plants the workers simply went on strike. “can’t reign them in” You portray it as if the workers are being violent. Chill they simply went on strike nothing was stormed.

    3) Being an ally of the hezb doesn’t mean he controls and vice versa, if you are used to the way the Future movement bosses Doc Geagea around and think that’s how alliances work, well once again tough luck, being an ally to someone doesn’t mean you have to be a carbon copy of them nor does it mean that your ally has to do your bidding in everything

    (PS the reason why Bassil is a minister has nothing to do with how many votes he got, his party has a majority of MP’s in the government and therefore got allocated the biggest number of ministers. To whom the FPM gives the seats is up to them, no?)

    4) See No 2

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    • 1) Tell that to every Southerner I know. And no, it wasn’t just FPM. Give credit where credit is due. Had FPM only harbored Southerners, many of them wouldn’t have had places to stay.

      2) Sure the “workers” were not being violent. But those behind the workers don’t have a history. Poor things. As innocent as they can be.

      3) Part of what FPM flaunts is having ways with Hezbollah that others don’t have. And no, FM doesn’t control LF. See last paragraph for FPM strategy.
      And when Aoun says no election losers should get a ministry position, I expect Bassil not to get one. Yes, it has to do with elections. If you don’t win, you don’t get anywhere near power.

      4) The conversation won’t go on forever here. You will never agree with me and I will never agree with you.

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  2. 1) “Tell that to every Southerner I know” once again its not the “Southerners” fault you are obssessed with them,
    “Give credit where credit is due” I did, the FPM helped the most, and also Kataeb and PSP where the ones who provided aid. The LF was too busy making life difficult for refugees.
    “Had FPM only harbored Southerners, many of them wouldn’t have had places to stay.” Which is why a lot of them slept in parks.

    2) Sure the “workers” were not being violent. But those behind the workers don’t have a history, ooooooooookay so are you implying the workers have a hidden agenda? As for “Poor things. As innocent as they can be.” well, it shows how you are pathetically narrow minded and racist, calling people “things” just because they disagree with you? Then again it is my fault for expecting someone who worships “Doctor” Geagea the butcher of Ehdin(remind me where he got his degree from?) of respecting others

    3) The FPM does indeed have ways with Hezbollah, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten 7 ministries (11 if you count with them the rest of their bloc) most of which are important ministries such as the interior, while the mighty LF got what? also I never said that the future movement controls the LF, I simply stated the truth which is that the FM controls Geagea and his sheeple follow him without thinking. While Aoun should have stuck to his word that the losers shouldn’t get a position, the FPM and their allies control the majority therefore they get to choose who they want to put and where, and that my dear friend is why they are in power. (PS both of the LF’s previous ministers where not in MP’s, consistency my friend)

    4) I agree with you, we will never agree (ooops we actually did).

    to end it on a high note

    well, electricity wise it extends beyond that. But yeah, pretty much lots of our problems are “down under”

    And this is one of the reasons, dear LF, I can never – ever – support you.
    if this is how your more open-minded members think then I can only begin to guess how the rest of the LF zealots thinks.

    It was fun reading your blog, but I frankly am bored of you throwing all your problems on the evil scheming “Southerners” and to be fair it is your blog and you can write whatever you want .

    Good luck and try to widen your horizons.

    (PS if in the next decade I decide to read your blog do I call you a “Northenrer” or a “Centralner”)

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    • 1) I’m LF and I harbored “Southerners.” Same applies to my uncle & all the LF in my hometown and the neighboring towns of my caza. Everyone helped. As for the parks thing, well, yeah they slept in parks because LF didn’t harbor them. Good luck convincing people with that.

      2) You’ve never heard of the phrase: “You poor thing?” Apparently not. I guess, I’ll just move on. How could I take the whole point seriously after that? Doctor Geagea the butcher. Seriously. I’m rolling on the floor laughing.

      3) Both the LF’s previous ministers were not nominated in elections. Consistency my friend. As for the first part of #3, I’ll let you read it again and if it still makes sense to you, then I guess kudos.

      4) Before you go on quoting my tweet, I suggest you “widen your horizons” by looking at the context in which I tweeted it.

      Being open-minded does not mean you hide away from stating what you believe in. And I believe Hezbollah is messing up the country big time. Many other people think the same way as well (including many FMP people). Now go call them zealots just because they don’t agree with you. Now who’s the one who’s narrow-minded?

      And before you go all “holy” on me, think about this. Do you agree with the premise of the “strike” or not? Cause I don’t. And I still wouldn’t agree with it if it had been done in some “Northern” part of the country by some LF “zealots”.

      As long as Hezbollah keeps doing the things it does so “valiantly,” there will be posts on my blog to address that. You might not read them but they’ll still be coming up.

      And for the record, you might as well call me Northerner since I’m from the North. Referring to someone by the geographical region they come from isn’t exactly swearing at them. I’m sorry you feel sorry for being called a “Southerner”. Oh wait, isn’t that what “Jnoubi” translates to?

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  3. Pingback: Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis: The Gebran Bassil Paradigm « A Separate State of Mind

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