A controversial plan by the Ministry of Public Works to construct a port, the Nabih Berri Fisherman Project, along the coast of Adloun in Southern Lebanon is currently underway. According to the Director General of Land and Maritime Transport, the port will also host storage rooms and a fish market to be used by the local fisherman. Both fisherman boats and leisure boats will be able to dock at the port and a free public swimming pool will be established. The Mayor of Adloun lauded this “complete project” and claimed that “everyone will benefit from it.”
However, objections have been raised and many are opposing this project. Despite the mayor’s claims that everyone will benefit from this project, residents of Adloun and activists held a protest against this project and claimed that this project will bring destruction to the beach and the historical identity of the city. Adloun is a historic site that used to host a Phoenician Port. Some claim that this project would affect prehistoric caves, Phoenician ruins and ornaments. In addition, the project could affect the biodiversity of the area affecting fish and sea turtle habitants that are present in the vicinity of the site.
The main source of controversy is that this project has not gone through the legal due process required. A project of this magnitude requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be undertaken and approved by the Ministry of Environment before construction commences. The EIA Decree 8633, explicitly states that ports require an EIA (listed in Annex 1 of decree), which clearly has not been done for this development. The Minister of Environment has recently issued a notice to the Ministry of Public Works requesting the cessation of the construction due to violations of the provisions of Decree 8633.
The issue here is very straightforward; the Ministry of Environment has the legal mandate to protect the environment, projects like this need to be reviewed by the Ministry to ensure that the environment will not affected adversely. Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture had already issued two letters to the South Lebanon Governor asking to halt all construction work. Despite all this, the construction is still going on and the ministries’ requests seem to have been ignored.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a major project has been undertaken by the government without an EIA. The construction of Jenna Dam in Adonis valley also started without an EIA and caused a public outcry. If such practices continue, then there is a risk that the EIA Decree, and other environmental legislation, would become obsolete. A clearer relationship between the Ministry of Environment and other government entities should be established giving the Ministry the explicit right to halt a project if the required environmental approvals have not been obtained. The public sector should not be exempt from abiding by environmental legislation, especially since it often undertakes major developments in the country that are likely to significantly affect the environment.