Being advertised as a job creating opportunity, the Ain Dara cement factory has stirred up a lot of turmoil in the public eye. Many protests have risen demonstrating both the illegal nature and the environmental impacts of the plant. The factory was supposed to be located in Zahle, however heavy protest from Zahle residents due to environmental concerns has led to the suspension of the project in Zahle, and it’s relocation to Ain Dara .According to Zahle’s MP “the environmental problems would not only affect the city of Zahle, but the entire district as well”.
The Factory is owned by Pierre Fattouch, brother of Parliament member Nicolas Fattouch. Fattouch claims that his plant will follow both United Nations and international organization standards for environmental and health protection. However the Mukhtar, Antoine Bader accuses Fatouch of blurring the facts and lying about the health and the environmental impacts that the cement factory has on the village. Though an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted and approved by the Ministry of the Environment, the municipality claims that the amount of water needed to cool down the machinery could be problematic. Ain Dara is a major source for water for both Mount Lebanon and Beirut. The factory could lead to some serious water issues that could affect this area. “We want to keep our air and water clean, and all we want from the Fattoush family is clean air, not a cement factory,” MP Fadi Habr said. The residents of Ain Dara did not turn a blind eye; on July 5th 2016 a sit down was staged at Dahr al-Baidar where the people blocked the cement mixers from entering. The villagers’ protest has gotten support from numerous government officials, Sammy Gemayel tweeted that the locals of Ain Dara have his support. MP Akram Chehayeb condemned the factory and accused the Fattouch family destroying the Dahr l Baydar area; “Because of the Fattoush family, Dahr al-Baidar Mountain became the Dahr al-Baidar plain.” On Wednesday 19th 2017 Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has ordered to put a stop to the quarries works in the Alley district, after an investigation into the legality of the work proved that they have been operating without proper licensing.
In response to the growing numbers of protest from residents of the area; Fattouch has sent on numerous occasions some of his armed men hoping that they will scare off the protesters; however the people of Ain Dara remain steady. On April 18th, Steven Haddad a municipality member in Ain Dara was brutally beating up by four gunmen in Chtoura. Fattouch reiterated that he had obtained all the necessary licenses and signed contracts with international companies to manufacture the equipment for the factory, which are ready to be installed. "Neither Ain Dara municipality nor any other [side] can prevent me from carrying out the work," the statement said.In another statement Fatouch said that there are currently 25 quarries in the mountain Lebanon area that are operating illegally and without licenses and yet only he is being targeted. "Obstructing the construction of the cement factory will impose heavy damage on Fattoush due to the signed contracts and agreements with foreign companies, which could lead to lawsuits against the state and burden the state treasury with heavy fines to compensate for its negligence in imposing security and law enforcement." Another concern that Ain Dara resident raised was the proximity of the factory to the Shouf biosphere, and the negative affects it could have on the reserve.