|Project Details||The Bisri Dam was initially proposed in 1953 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and was followed up by the Litani Water Bureau in the framework of water and dam projects on the Litani and Awwali rivers (also known as the Bisri river in its upper section), with some preliminarily studies done in 2000 by the CDR. It is located on the Bisri river between the Chouf and Jezzine areas, at 395m above sea level, and will forecast to have a storage capacity of 125 million cubic meters of water, the second largest after Qaraoun’s 210 million cubic meters. It will supply water to Iklim el Kharoub, central Beirut, and South Beirut through the Hadath and Hazmiey reservoirs, as well as well as reservoirs in Ashrafieh and Tallet Al Khayyat. It will also provide 11.2 MW of hydroelectric power. |
The project is integrated with a downstream water supply network already under construction. This includes constructing a conveyor tunnel, pipelines, a center reservoir and distribution networks for regional reservoirs, as reported by Elie Moussalli, Lead Project Engineer at CDR. The project also includes a water treatment plant in Wardaniyeh, all part of a prior loan by the World Bank worth $370 million.
As for the dam itself, $320 million is dedicated for construction, $220 contractors’ costs, $66 million contingencies, $10 million engineering, $20 million construction of a transmission line, $15 million construction of hydropower plant, and $150 million for expropriation of properties around the project. Another $4 million is allocated for overseeing and managing the project including environmental monitoring and impact assessment.
Around 570 HA of land will be expropriated and inundated, including 150 HA of agricultural land, 82 ha of pine woodland, and 131 hectares of natural vegetation. The coalition campaigning against the dam reports that around 150,000 woodland trees will be cut and that this number might go up to 500,000, besides agricultural orchards, labeling it an environmental genocide.
According the CDR reports and press releases by Mousalli, the area is not heavily populated besides a few seasonal farm workers living in tents, “mostly non-Lebanese” with “no permanent structures obstructing the project”. This, of course, is not true, and is the reasons why it has led activists to call the CDR the “council of lies”.
The project is part of the Greater Beirut Water Supply Augmentation project, which according to CDR reports aims to provide “Economically efficient” solutions to the severe shortages in public supply of water in the Greater Beirut area.
The CDR claims that measures have been taken to preserve the archeological and cultural components, in collaboration with the Directorate of General Antiquities (DGA) and the Maronite Diocese of Saida. These measures will be funded by the project and are already included in the cost of dam construction. Such measures will primarily rely on the relocation of the Mar Mousa Church, St. Shopia’s monastery, as well as some old ruined houses in the valley. Currently the CDR is looking for “storage areas” for excavated material until the DGA plans re-erection at an indeterminate time.