BEIRUT: In light of the challenges that Lebanon is currently facing, including those resulting from the pandemic outbreak, Lebanese authorities have failed to meet their obligations under the Bisri Dam Loan Agreement. The World Bank has subsequently agreed to provide a deadline extension to the Lebanese government to fulfill the requirements of the agreement.
The project has been under partial suspension since June 26, 2020. The date extension is settled for the fourth of September 2020, and unless Lebanon presents the preconditions required, the World Bank would have to cancel the loan fund which is estimated to be $474 million. “In that event, the World Bank would be ready to work with the Government of Lebanon to see how the cancelled amount could be used most effectively to respond to the emerging needs of the Lebanese people,” a World Bank statement said.
The statement stressed as well the importance of receiving an update on the government’s ongoing engagement with Lebanese stakeholders on the Bisri dam project, including online consultations on the Ecological Compensation Plan (ECP), in view of the COVID-19 situation.
The Lebanese population has always been subject to severe water supply shortages, due to infrastructure deficit and sub-optimal water resources management. While the project is set to provide water benefits to the residents in the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon area, some environmental experts, still believe that there are many alternatives to the Bisri Dam project, which are less costly, more effective, and do not pose a threat to the environment.
These include the “rehabilitation of spring facilities to stop water waste, implementation of a plan for underground warehouse wells to regulate water extraction, restoration of the damaged water distribution networks, and collecting rain water in tanks,” according to Terre Liban, a non-profit organization with a focus on environmental issues.
The Lebanese government had submitted an ECP draft on July 9, 2020 and is currently updating it based on comments provided by the World Bank, the Ministry of Environment among other parties.
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