Marj Bisri, November 2nd, 2019. Jean works in an electronics store in Jounieh Together with other activists, he spent two nights in a tent in the Bisri Valley, demonstrating against a new mostly World-bank financed dam project.
Why are you against the Dam-Project in the Bisri Valley?
Most of all, because apparently the area where the dam is supposed to be built, is a high-risk earthquake zone. If the government really wants to build a new dam, they should do it anywhere but here. Building this dam will destroy the environment and the historical sites in this area, like the Mar Moussa church. It’s a very beautiful valley. I think it would be a grave mistake to let it be destroyed, and even more so that the reasons behind this project are corrupted and inefficient.
Why did you choose to fight against the project during the revolution, not before?
Well, to be honest, I had never heard about it until a few days ago. I love to go hiking and camping and to discover new places all over Lebanon, but I’ve never been to this valley or even ever heard about it before.
What’s the role of environmental issues in the current movement?
They are very important. I’ve never seen so many people in Lebanon care about our environment, about pollution and plastic… The other day I’ve read an article that claimed that there had been more recycling initiatives during the last month than ever before in the history of Lebanon. I don’t know if that’s correct, but it still tells you a lot about how much more aware people have become of environmental issues during the revolution. [..]
It’s 2019 and I think it’s impossible to continue ignoring how much harm we are causing, and its impacts on climate change. Did you see how polluted Lebanon’s beaches are? Did you see how much trash people throw on the sidewalks? This mentality really needs to change, of course, but the government also needs to encourage recycling and things like that. We don’t even have public transport! Of course, the country is polluted when everybody is driving to work in their car…
*Translated from French
The Bisri Valley Dam project is a 617-Million $ project, mainly financed by the World Bank, that aims to bring drinking water to Beirut and the Beirut region. The Save the Bisri Valley campaign is protesting the construction of the dam pointing out the damaging of the environment, suspicions of corruption, and the overwhelming threat of earthquake–related accidents. The earthquake of 1956 claimed 135 lives in the region.
More information: https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/bisri-dam