The Bisri Valley in Lebanon is threatened by a World Bank-funded dam project that is proven costly, inefficient and harmful. If implemented, the project will destroy 6 million square meters of natural areas and agricultural lands, and will result in the dismantling of more than 50 historical sites. Additionally, the dam is planned to be built on an active seismic fault, posing risks of reservoir-induced earthquakes.
Instead of addressing water problems with affordable solutions by allocating financial resources to sustainable water management, the government is taking a 600 million dollar loan to build the destructive, land-greedy Bisri Dam to convey water to the Greater Beirut Area. And on top of the violations of the Lebanese regulations, the project does not comply with the World Bank’s goals of fighting poverty, mitigating Climate Change and promoting sustainable development.
We ask the World Bank to withdraw its financial support for the Bisri Dam. We also ask the Lebanese government to abort the project and adopt sustainable water management solutions instead.
(You can find below more details about the project's harms and alternatives)
REASONS TO STOP THE BISRI DAM:
1. Threats to Natural Habitats
The Bisri Valley is considered one of the most important Landscapes in Lebanon, according to the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territory (2005). The valley encompasses a variety of natural habitats including a distinctive pine forest. With its widespread shallow water, the valley is an important habitat for migratory birds, especially the Black Stork, the Sparrow White, the Crane, the White Swan, the White Pelican (all protected by the AEWA Agreement signed by Lebanon) and the Dalmatian Pelican (Near Threatened species according to IUCN).
2. Threats to Cultural Heritage
This valley is abundant with historical sites (83 sites upstream and 29 downstream) that date back to the Bronze Age, the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Mameluke and Ottoman Periods. Studies conducted by local and international survey teams (University of Warsaw, Lebanese University, and others) confirmed the exceptional historic value of the valley. The historical remains include: a Roman temple, bridges, tombs, a historical church, a convent, traditional houses and others.
3. Threats to Agriculture and local economy
Agricultural activities are prevalent throughout the area of the Bisri Reservoir, upstream and downstream, and on the adjacent hillsides. They include fruit orchards and open fields variously tilled, cropped, lying fallow or under poly-tunnels. Around 57% of the impacted area holds a productive agricultural activity, with an estimated 125 million USD of annual revenue.There is a perfect harmony between the local community and its natural environment.
4. Threats to Safety
The Bisri dam and corresponding lake will directly overly a major active fault, the Bisri Fault, which can pose a serious problem from the seismic point of view.
According to experts, the dam’s water infiltration into the subsurface is inevitable and will naturally induce a seismic activity. Geologists say that the Roum Fault - Bisri Fault intersection is probably the source of the destructive 1956’s earthquake, and that any future change of the delicate stress regimes around these faults can lead to a swarm of seismic activity that cannot be predicted neither in extent nor in magnitude. The weight of the water column of the future lake can have similar effects as well.
5. Better Alternatives Exist...
The National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS) recommended the consideration of alternative solutions for the transport of fresh water to Beirut, given the fact that the Mount-Lebanon area is dominated with karstic rock formations that are subject to unavoidable water infiltration. Similarly, The Strategic Environmental Assessment of the National Water Sector Strategy recommended the scaling-back of the dams’ program considering its social, economic, and environmental constraints. It recommended the adoption of alternative solutions.
1 - Fixing networks' physical failures:
More than 40% of the water currently provided to Beirut is lost through uncontrolled leakage (the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, 2014)
2 - Reforming the Groundwater sector:
According to the Assessment of Groundwater Resources of Lebanon (UNDP 2014), natural groundwater recharge amounts to 53% of the total renewable water resources. The assessment confirms that most of the groundwater basins are not under stress. They are however subject to corruption and mismanagement. The government must control and monitor wells, establish groundwater protection zones, adopt a polluter-pays principle, implement Groundwater Artificial Recharge and Aquifer Storage and Recovery, etc.
3 - Investing in submarine springs:
The Strategic Environmental Assessment for the New Water Sector Strategy for Lebanon (2015) proposed submarine springs as a viable option to consider. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of some of these springs have already been conducted by the National Centre for Scientific Research in Lebanon (CNRS) and yielded very positive results. An estimated 650 Mm3/yr of fresh water (6 times the capacity of the Bisri Dam) can help ensure water security for many years to come.
4 - Investing in Nature-Based Solutions for Water:
The United Nations World Water Development Report (2018) made it clear that nature-based solutions, as opposed to dams, are essential to meet the Goal 6 of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report emphasized on the need for water management solutions that deliver co-benefits such as ensuring food security, reducing disaster risks, and boosting decent work. The report provided clear evidence that the costs of nature-based solutions can compare favorably with alternative grey-infrastructure options.
- The Strategic Environmental Assessment of the National Water Sector Strategy (MoEW 2014): https://bit.ly/2qXxLpu
- Nature-Based Solutions for Water (UNESCO 2018): https://bit.ly/2HTF1cF
- Assessment of Groundwater Resources of Lebanon (UNDP 2014): https://bit.ly/2KM7Mhq
- Beyond Dams: Options and Alternatives (American Rivers and International Rivers 2004): https://bit.ly/2FkH1Kv