The project, funded by the World Bank, entails building a dam in the Bisri Valley with the goal of providing water to the 'Greater Beirut Area'.
In spite of 27,000 people signing an online petition against the dam, and regardless of the proven devastating consequences of the project, the World Bank is pressing ahead with the plans.
These consequences are not minimal. As proven, 6 million square meters of natural landscapes, agricultural lands, and more than 50 historical sites will be severely impacted. Not even the viable solutions and cheaper alternatives proposed by scientists have deterred the project, so far.
The latest outcry has come from Asia News, the multinational pan-Asian news media, that has published a study warning of the 'inevitable' earthquake the dam would induce.
We had previously mentioned that the Bisri Valley straddles two seismic fault lines, the Roum and the Bisri offshoot, making it the most susceptible point for earthquakes in the entire country.
The planned reservoir will place 33 billion gallons of water on the fault lines, pressuring the point where has originated the infamous 1956 earthquake that killed dozens and destroyed thousands of homes.
AUB Geology Professor Tony Nemer, who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the same fault line on which the dam will be located, warned that “There is not a worse place for building a dam in Lebanon.”
The proposed dam will form a lake with an expected volume of 125 million cubic meters covering 4.5 square kilometers. The water height is slated to reach 70 meters high, submerging the valley and threatening to impact the fault line below.
Professor Nemer explained, “There is something in geology called reservoir-triggered seismicity. You have a fault, you impound water above that fault, and the water has weight... We are dealing with a seismogenic (earthquake inducing) fault.”
Due to Lebanon's small size relative to the number and size of the active faults that it hosts, potential earthquakes could destroy the entire area, in addition to neighboring Syria, Jordan and Palestine.
This will hardly be the first time that an earthquake is triggered by a reservoir. 23 earthquakes are believed to have been caused by dams. In 2008, a dam in China induced a devastating earthquake that killed 80,000 people.
Albeit the Bisri Dam will be shorter in height and will hold far less water than the others, the fact remains that most researches concur that the Levant is overdue for a major seismic event. So why yank the chain in the first place?
Lebanese voices have spoken out against the dam and its risks as well as the new financial obligations it will bring. Scientists and environmentalists opposed to the dam have also appealed to members of the Lebanese parliament in a meeting earlier this month to cancel the project and consider alternative solutions for clean water.
What is left to do now is to raise our voices louder and clearer in order to save the valley and all that is at high stake for us and the region.