In 2011 revolts started in some of the main Syrian cities, first in Hama, Homs and Aleppo and in a few months the revolts escalated into a civil war affecting the whole country and involving foreign countries supporting both sides. Slowly, an increasing amount of Syrians affected by combat started to seek refuge in surrounding countries like Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Since the Syrian civil war started, Lebanon has officially hosted more than 1,200,000 Syrian refugees. Some of these refugees have found adequate shelter all over the country but around 41% of them live in substandard buildings and informal tented settlements (ITS).
Lebanon’s experience with the disastrous management of Palestinian refugee camps created during the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 has led the government to prohibit the creation of any refugee camps leaving the ITSs in a legal limbo. Due to this legal limbo, the government doesn’t allow the construction of new water and sanitation infrastructure or the connection to the already overstressed existing infrastructure. Other factors affecting the WASH coordination are:
1.Each local authority has own interests and priorities and Syrian refugees are not in the agenda
2.Current water supply and sewage systems are old and inefficient (in most of the country the water supply is guaranteed by trucks)
3.Solid waste management is non-existing
Due to the government’s policy towards ITSs the NGOs and international organizations must rely on trucking from contractors for water supply and waste dislodging. Under this system, NGOs have great difficulties in measuring the effectiveness and transparency of the services they hire. As of now, organizations rely on monitoring sheets, signed by every beneficiary when they receive the services (either water or dislodging). The information is very difficult to crosscheck on the field and is often incomplete or full of errors.
In the Bekaa valley, where Action Against Hunger – Spain operates the situation is even more difficult because:
- The size of the ITSs vary due to rural workers that move within the country seeking seasonal jobs.
- The water table is very contaminated due to high intensive agricultural activity and use of fertilizers
- The ITSs population have low cultural levels and practically no hygiene education
- There is organized crime around water trucking with connections with authorities.
Because of this, ACH is researching new ways of monitoring trucking services in order to guarantee the quality of the services hired, reduce the estimated 20% over costs currently associated to mismanagement and corruption and quantify with partners and donors the real impact the organization is having.
PHASE 1 PILOT
In September 2016 H2ONow’s team travelled to Zahle to, together with local ACF team, install and pilot a first monitoring device. The purpose of this pilot was three fold:
1.Test and improve the monitoring hardware and installation on the truck.
2.Test the functionality of the current software and discuss the scope of the improvements necessary.
3.Test the compatibility and functionality of the hardware with GPS and mobile network available.
The implementation of the pilot was a success and the device has been providing thousands of data points since it’s implementation.
PHASE 2 DEPLOYMENT – NEW CHALLENGES
One of the main requirements from the beginning of the project was the possibility to quickly escalate the technology to multiple devices in a variety of contexts. From the initial first device installed the West & Central Bekaa, ACF asked H2ONow to install 22 additional devices, both West & Central Bekaa and Aarsal contexts. This represented an extreme growth in the size and complexity of the project.
In addition to the number of piloted devices, Phase II presented new challenges to the H2ONow team. First, Phase II required H2ONow to explore desludging functionality and water trucking functionality with detachable tanks.
The first one represented a challenge due to the new truck design and medium to measure. In order to cover as many use cases and scenarios as possible the team decided to test 2 different sensors for desludging:
- An ultrasonic sensor installed at the top of the tanker to measure the distance to the surface of the sludge
- An open membrane pressure sensor installed at the bottom of the truck to measure the water column of the sludge
The detachable tanks and tractors further tested the versatility of the system since the tanks needed to remain detachable in order to carry out periodic engine maintenance.
Some early insights can be extracted from the field work and the early days of operation.
- From the early data points received it would seem the ultrasonic sensors are not providing reliable data because of the pressurization and de depressurization of the sludge tank which was not considered in the initial design. Open membrane sensor seem more reliable and team is waiting for reliable data to contrast.
- It would seem that some of the equipment installed has suffered from sabotage. Initial inspection showed that the low security of the metal enclosure has made this possible. In the future additional security measures should be taken and the hardware should be made more robust to overcome opportunistic manipulation.
- It seems that the mobile network in Aarsal is too weak for the devices to connect and upload/download the data. The team is investigating ways to fix this issue like for example introducing external antennas.