The Documentary Podcast
A fight for light in Lebanon
Thursday, 12 December
Life in Lebanon is a daily battle to beat the power cuts caused by the country's chronic electricity shortage. If you live in a block of flats, you have to time when you go in and out to avoid getting trapped in the lift. Food goes bad because fridges don't work, families must often choose between air-conditioning and watching TV, and those on life-support machines live in constant fear of a switch-off. But if it's hell for citizens, it's heaven for operators of illegal private generators who profit by filling the gap left by the failures of the national grid. Some are former warlords who led militias in Lebanon's civil war. They're given an unofficial licence to operate, often in return for favours to the authorities in Lebanon's chaotic and often corrupt sectarian system.
Now a huge protest movement is demanding change in Lebanon - and a constant power supply is one of the demonstrators' main demands. They want to break the power of the "fuel mafia" that imports diesel for the generators and has close links to the country's leading politicians. For them, the fight for light is a fight against corruption. But can Lebanon's feeble state ever manage to turn all the lights on?
Reporter: Tim Whewell
Producer: Anna Meisel
(Image: Protesters block the main entrance of the Lebanese electricity company headquarters in Beirut. Credit: European Photopress Agency)