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Lebanon: Protest Against the World Bank-Financed Bisri Dam Project

Lebanon: Protest Against the World Bank-Financed Bisri Dam Project

Tuesday, 5 March, 2019 - 15:45
Activists hold signs as they demonstrate in the rain at a sit-in outside the World Bank's headquarters in the center of the Lebanese capital Beirut on March 4, 2019, in protest against the institution's financing of a new dam project in the Bisri valley south of the capital. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)

Dozens of Lebanese staged a protest on Monday in front of World Bank offices in Beirut, calling on the international institution to withdraw its important financial contribution planned for a controversial dam project.

"Bisri Dam = Destruction, Pollution, Earthquakes" and "Save The Bisri Valley", read banners and posters carried by demonstrators gathered in downtown Beirut.

The dam in question is planned to be built in south Lebanon’s Bisri Valley, about 30 kilometers south of Beirut, and be used for irrigating agricultural land and providing drinking water to 1.6 million people living in greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

Environmental groups strongly contest the creation of the dam, citing issues related to biodiversity, cultural heritage, public health, local economy, and seismic activity.

In a statement distributed during the event, the environmental NGO Lebanon Eco Movement warned against the "threats" posed by the construction of the dam on a seismic fault.

"According to experts, the infiltration of dam water in the subsoil is inevitable and will naturally cause seismic activity," the statement said.

Environmentalists and local farmers dispute assurances from the government and World Bank, the main financier with a loan of $474 million, that the dam to be built on a seismic fault line does not increase the risk of earthquakes.

"The World Bank is financing a project which will cause an ecological massacre and expel residents from their region," said Boutros Salim, a 54-year-old demonstrator.

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