Qaysamani Dam, Lebanon

The “dam obsession” of the Lebanese government ignores the associated environmental risks, cheaper alternatives, and core issue behind water shortages, namely severe mismanagement of an otherwise abundant resource


Description

Although effective exploitation of groundwater resources represents the most cost-effective and sustainable solution to Lebanon’s water problems [1], the Lebanese government has gone on a recent “dam obsession,” [2] ignoring the associated environmental risks, cheaper alternatives, and core issue behind water shortages, namely severe mismanagement of an otherwise abundant resource. [1] The Qaysamani dam in Falougha is yet another dam under construction in Lebanon, located on the Mghiteh plateau, which was proposed in the ten-year national water strategy of the Ministry of Energy and Water in 2010. The residents of Hammana, a Christian village, have been fiercely opposing the project since its inception, claiming that it threatens their central water source, the Chaghour spring, besides being harmful to the environment and failing to meet its stated objective of providing the specified volume of water (including good quality potable water), with its current design and specified location. The country’s complicated sectarian dynamic, however, has infiltrated this issue as well, with other surrounding villages with largely Druze constituencies supporting the project, suspecting that citizens of Hammana want to rob them of the promised water resource. Meanwhile, citizens of Hammana claim that the political leaders backing the project have ties to the contracted company and will benefit financially from the Kuwaiti loan, although there is no evidence to back this claim. Scientific facts, however, highlight the irrational nature of the project. The location is a highly seismic area, one of the most active in Lebanon, and a study by professors at the American University of Beirut shows that if the wall collapses Hammana will be flooded within two hours [4]. Ironically, campaign members state that the response of former minister of energy Gebran Basil to this concern was that only one house in Hammana will be flooded at worst, not being able to refute the claim that the dam might collapse. Moreover, the porous geology of the land and its Karstic nature make it unsuitable for a dam, which will lead to a high amount of leakage. According to Marie-Helene Nassif, a local of Hammana and a water expert, taking into account the costs and benefits of the project, particularly the huge loan that will have to repaid,  the project becomes unreasonable. Dr. Naji Kodeih also argues that the EIA conducted did not explore alternative proposals, such as collecting water downstream from the Chaghour river, which would result in more water storage than building the dam. He claims that it seems the broader goal is not to make rational use of the country’s water resources, but rather building the dam seems to be an end in itself. [5] As for the EIA, it was conducted for a project at a different location, in Qaysamani (hence the current name of the dam) but no EIA was conducted when the location was changed. Meanwhile, government officials kept blaming Hammana residents for slowing down this project with their actions and complaints.

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Basic Data
NameQaysamani Dam, Lebanon
CountryLebanon
ProvinceMount Lebanon Govenorate
SiteHammana
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe dam is projected to store 1 million cubic meters of rain and snow water and will supply 35 villages in Mount Lebanon with potable water. The names of these specific villages, however, are not provided in any official report. It is located on the Mghiteh Plateau which is within the protected zone of the Chaghour Spring. As such the law forbids any construction in the area, to avoid damaging the natural course of the spring, thus rendering the project illegal. Moreover, alternative studies show that realistically the dam can only store 650 thousand cubic meters of water, which means that it will provide each of these villages with only one tank of water a day.

The municipality of Hammana conducted technical reviews of the dam studies, with consultation from several hydrologists and hydro-geologists, and found the following risks associated with the dam (more information found in the booklet of NoDam Campaign):

1. A significant reduction in the discharge of the Chaghour Spring

2. A severe risk of pollution occurring in the Chaghour Spring

3. A risk of infrastructure collapse due to its location in a highly seismic region

4. A risk of exposure to carcinogenic chemicals due to bitumen being used to prevent water infiltration through the dam’s soil
Project Area (in hectares)12,000
Level of Investment (in USD)34,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population8,000
Start Date2012
End Date06/07/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesSociete Mouawad-Edde S.A.R.L. from Lebanon - Project contractor
Liban Consult from Lebanon
Relevant government actorsCouncil for Development and Reconstruction

Ministry of Energy and Water

Ministry of Environment

Establishment of the Water of Beirut and Mount Lebanon
International and Financial InstitutionsKuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) from Kuwait
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNoDam Campaign

Lebanon Eco Movement (as support not as organizers)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Desertification/Drought
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (undecided)
Moratoria
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesA group of engineers from the Hammana region have proposed capturing water downstream from the Chaghour spring and distributing it to the villages. The proposed project would provide a volume of water 5 times higher than the one to be stored in the Qaysamani dam.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Although campaigners were not successful in stopping the project, they felt they had many "breakthroughs" in terms of learning how the system functions and its loopholes, which can all be used for future campaigning against other dam projects, especially since they understood the dynamics of the water sector in Lebanon.

They also felt like they were successful in terms of organizing a campaign, where a civil society group was active on the long term with an actual strategy, something not very common in Lebanon. Both their successes and failures are examples to learn from.
Sources and Materials
Links

[4] Article on the highly seismic nature of the location of the project
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[5] Article with Dr. Kodeih's intervention during a legislative committee of public works and water and energy to assess the studies regarding the dam
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When dams meet privatization: Lebanon under water transactions
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[1] Beyond Rehashed Policies: Lebanon Must Tackle its Water Crisis Head-On
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Dam Fury
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Citizens of Hammana hold a candle vigil
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[3] Opening ceremony for the Qaysamani Dam project
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[2] Lebanon's Dam Obsession
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المجتمع المدني في حمانا: للوقف الفوري للأشغال في سد القيسماني الى حين استكمال الدراسات
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فرعية الاشغال طالبت بتجميد العمل بسد القيسماني لمزيد من الاستشارات
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تجميد العمل في سد القيسماني… لمزيد من الدراسات، هل تنتصر حمانا في معركتها ضد الفساد؟
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فضائح السدود في لبنان
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سد القيسماني: ماذا قال الخبير الفرنسي في اللجنة البرلمانية؟
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ملاحظات سريعة على دراسة تقييم الأثر البيئي لسد القيسماني
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مشاريع المياه في لبنان وسدودها.. غير استراتيجية ولا ضرورية
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الأعمال في سد القيسماني مستمرة
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عجيبة في حمانا!
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Media Links

Link to petition to stop the construction of the dam
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Official Facebook page of NoDam Campaign
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TV report on the Qaysamani dam
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Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorCatherine Moughalian, Asfari Institute, AUB
Last update11/04/2017
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