The World Bank Stopped Funding The Bisri Dam Project Thanks to Lebanese Activists

@rabihzihri | @karlsader

The Lebanese people have been trying to stop the Bisri Dam project from commencing. Campaigns were formed and petitions were signed. Videos were made including Lebanese people from all over the world, and the hashtag #SavetheBisriValley trended on a large scale.

The activists behind the Save Bisri campaign finally had their voices heard. The World Bank froze its funds to the project until further notice.

In a statement, the World Bank requested that the “government of Lebanon launch an open and transparent public dialogue to address the concerns raised by citizens and civil society groups.”

The World Bank also announced that it will divert all allocated funds to COVID-19 response.

The Bisri Dam project was originally meant to supply Beirut with fresh water, but at what consequences?

Not only will this dam lead to the loss of natural and agricultural lands, and affect over 50 historical sites, it will increase the risk of earthquakes; the whole east coast of Lebanon has already experienced multiple earthquakes in the past month).

In a country dependant on its tourism sector, this is a grand disadvantage. In addition, the dam will add a $650 million debt to the already bankrupt country.

According to the activists, there are 5 main reasons to withdraw the Bisri Dam project:

  • It will result in the loss of 6 million sq mt of natural areas and agricultural lands, loss of biodiversity, and dismantling of over 50 historical sites.
  • The project is not based on transparent expert-assessment and directly benefits some political groups.
  • The dam will be built on the active Roum fault, which is a direct risk of reservoir-induced earthquakes.
  • The project will add a $650 million debt to an already bankrupt country.
  • There are other solutions that are safer and environmentally friendly, like the reduction of water leakage in the distribution network that is currently exceeding 40%.

The activists are now working on an official letter to send the World Bank. Silvana Kordab, a member of Cali For Leb, a group of Expats residing in California dedicated to supporting and improving Lebanon, says:

“I am well aware that we won our first victory yesterday in our fight against the Bisri Dam project. However, this is NOT over yet! Activists in Lebanon and all over the world have worked on an official letter to bombard @worldbank with.”