Last update:
2019-06-17

Bisri Dam, Lebanon

Despite being advertised as the solution to Beirut’s water shortages, the dam will instead be extremely damaging to the environment -- destroying agricultural land, archaeological ruins, and livelihoods - and increasing the risk of an earthquake.


Description:

The Bisri Dam, currently in the phase of land expropriation, is being advertised as the solution to Beirut’s water shortages, and as an economic and touristic boom to the region. However, scientists and activists claim that the dam will not actually store water due to the karstic nature of the land and the big volume of alluviums all along the valley and river. Rather, it will be extremely damaging to the environment, besides destroying fertile agricultural lands. Experts say that the project will impact the natural environment by interfering with the natural flow of the river at a site considered a natural protected area in Bisri (based on Article 131/1998). It will also destroy archeological, historic, and cultural heritage throughout the project area, demolishing Roman ruins, the Mar Mousa church, and nearly 75 other archeological sites within its premises.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Bisri Dam, Lebanon
Country:Lebanon
State or province:South Governorate
Location of conflict:Bisri
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Deforestation
Specific commodities:Land
Electricity
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The Bisri Dam was initially proposed in 1953 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and was followed up by the Litani Water Bureau in the framework of water and dam projects on the Litani and Awwali rivers (also known as the Bisri river in its upper section), with some preliminarily studies done in 2000 by the CDR. It is located on the Bisri river between the Chouf and Jezzine areas, at 395m above sea level, and will forecast to have a storage capacity of 125 million cubic meters of water, the second largest after Qaraoun’s 210 million cubic meters. It will supply water to Iklim el Kharoub, central Beirut, and South Beirut through the Hadath and Hazmiey reservoirs, as well as well as reservoirs in Ashrafieh and Tallet Al Khayyat. It will also provide 11.2 MW of hydroelectric power.

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Project area:600
Level of Investment:1,200,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:4 million
Company names or state enterprises:Dar Al-Handasah (Shair and Partners) from Lebanon
Relevant government actors:Council for Development and Reconstruction
Ministry of Energy and Water
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Agriculture
Electricité du Liban (EDL)
Ministry of Public Works and Transport
Directorate of General Antiquities
Concerned Municipalities
Ministry of Social Affairs
Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank
Islamic Development Bank
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Municipality of Midane
Lebanon Eco Movement
The National Campaign to Protect The Bisri Valley (https://www.facebook.com/BisriValley/)
A range of political parties also stand in opposition to the dam, including the Lebanese Communist Party and Citizens in a State
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
certain political parties
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil erosion, Air pollution, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsincrease in possibility of an earthquake
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Development of alternatives:Dr. Samir Zaatiti recommends making more efficient use of underground water resources.
Dr. Roland Riachi, a lecturer at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut, proposes the construction of small to medium-sized urban collective storage ponds, filled by monitored springs and groundwater. According to Riachi, this would be a much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution than the construction of dams. This should be accompanied by increased regulation of groundwater resources, reform of government agencies responsible for the water sector, repair of infrastructure, and a reform of the water tariff system, and better wastewater management.
The municipality of Midane and Fathi Chatila propose constructing a dam in Damour on the Damour river. The hydro-geologist authored a complaint signed by around 50 residents of Greater Beirut and submitted to the World Bank panel titled: “Presenting a Much Better Project: Damour Dam.”
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project has not been cancelled and construction works on the transmission network has started.
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Bisri dam funded
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لقاء في بلدية مزرعة الشوف عن مشروع سد بسري
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سد بسري: مشروع مائي أم مالي انتخابي وسياسي؟
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[1] Article about the dam with locals' perspective
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فرعية الاشغال المكلفة متابعة موضوع سد بسري
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Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report
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Resettlement Action Plan, Official CDR Report
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World bank report on the Water Supply Augmentation Project
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Lebanon seeks firms for construction of Bisri Dam
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On the Damour Dam project
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The Beirut Water Project Gets Green Light Despite Warnings
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مشروعا الأولي وبسري على مشارف التنفيذ
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كيف صدر مرسوم سدّ بسري رغم رفض المشروع؟!
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مشروع سدّ بسري: «منفعة عامة» تضرّ «المصلحة العامة»
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Complaint against the project by Fathi Chatila
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سد بسري… مثالٌ للفساد العلمي!
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البحر يغزو منازل البيروتيين... فهل ينقذها سدّ بسري؟
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هل يكون سد بسري ضحية "تشريع الضرورة"؟
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معترضون على تقرير مشروع سدّ بسري: تزوير للحقائق وطمس للمعلومات
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When dams meet privatization: Lebanon under water transactions
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Lebanon’s dam obsession: Who pays the price?
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Beyond Rehashed Policies: Lebanon Must Tackle its Water Crisis Head-On
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World Bank dam will weigh on Lebanon quake zone
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Damming Lebanon: Bisri Valley to be submerged
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Questions & Answers: Water Supply Augmentation Project, Lebanon
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Official Facebook page of campaign
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TV Report on the Bisri Dam
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Other documents

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Meta information
Contributor:Catherine Moughalian, Asfari Institute & Rania Masri
Last update17/06/2019
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Comments
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