Lebanon’s most admired university, the American University of Beirut, has begun limiting electricity on campus as the country’s fuel crisis worsens. The campus, made up of 64 buildings, including the American University of Beirut Medical Center, will switch off its central air conditioning due to the scarcity of fuel.
The move came into effect to “prioritize critical functions, especially at the medical center,” a letter sent to faculty and staff, seen by a news agency, said.
Human Resources Director Samar Diab Rouhana said the decision was due to “disruptions in fuel supplies in the country” and the fact that AUB’s fuel reserves have reached a critical threshold. Rationing will stay in place until August 22, she said, with “exceptions made for buildings that house critical laboratories and heat-sensitive materials and equipment.”
The university, which was established in 1866, also demanded all faculty and non-essential staff to work from home from August 13 until August 20. “In the meantime, the physical plant department will continue its efforts to secure fuel and rebuild the university’s fuel reserves,” the letter added.
The university could not be reached for comment. Lebanon has faced months of severe fuel shortages that have caused hour-long lines at gas pumps and plunged the small Mediterranean country, dependent on private generators for power, into hours of darkness.
Meanwhile, the state-owned Électricité du Liban is barely able to provide two to three hours of electricity in most regions. The shortages are blamed on smuggling into neighboring Syria, hoarding and the cash-strapped caretaker government’s inability to secure hard currency for fuel deliveries.
As the central bank’s foreign currency reserves reached a critical threshold, Prime Minister Hassan Diab gave an “exceptional approval” on June 25 to partially lift subsidies by financing fuel imports at an exchange rate of 3,900 Lebanese lira to the dollar “for the next three months,” to little effect.