World Bank Just Canceled Its Funding Of The Bisri Dam Project In Lebanon

Reuters

The World Bank on Friday announced that it had canceled $244 million in funds to the controversial Bisri Dam project in Lebanon after repeatedly raising unanswered concerns since January.

In a statement, the World Bank said it had notified the Lebanese government regarding the cancellation, which takes effect immediately. It said it has also repeatedly underscored the need for “an open, transparent, and inclusive consultative process.”

The dam, which was initially approved by Lebanon’s government in 2015 at a total cost of $617 million, has been fiercely contested by the Lebanese activists for its proven massive danger on the region and its residents, among other significant issues.

In spite of all the protests against it and the documented proven danger, the government went and voted against stopping it five months ago.

In January, the World Bank began raising concerns about Lebanon’s plans to build that large dam in the Bisri Valley, and put funding for the program under partial suspension on June 26.

The Bank released an official statement, mentioning that the Lebanese government had failed to address questions about an ecological compensation plan and arrangements for operations and management of the dam.

The contractor also had not been mobilized at the site, it said.

Since the valley is extremely forested and has multiple farmlands and a large number of historical ruins and sites, the dam had long ignited constructive criticism from environmental activists.

Activists from social and environmental backgrounds have led a two-year grassroots movement against the project, which they believe would cause immense negative repercussions to the Bisri valley.

Anti-corruption revolutionaries have also protested against it, considering the many question marks around it and the insistence of the government to undertake it with no evidence of its potential use, its transparency, and its humongous cost when the country is drowning under major crises.

In one tweet, a Lebanese news-reporter for Sky News Arabia wrote: “The Bisri Dam project fell out, and so did Gebran Bassil, the threats of Hezbollah, the greed of contractors, and the lies of our politicians. Congratulations to all the people who fought for years against this criminal project. Great victory for the people.”

The World Bank and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, the state entity supervising the Bisri project, said they remain ready to work with Lebanese authorities to see how existing loans, including un-disbursed amounts from the canceled project, could be used most efficiently to respond to the current needs of the Lebanese people following the port explosion.

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