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FEATURE STORY January 9, 2019

Bisri Dam Water Will be Treated and Will be Potable


Bisri Dam will bring clean and continuous water to Beirut and Mount Lebanon by 2024. *Dr. Jean-Roger Mercier (JRM), is chair and environmentalist of the Independent Panel of Experts on Environmental and Social Safeguards in charge of monitoring the Lebanon Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam) project. In this Q&A, he explains how the water channeled from the Bisri dam will be safe to drink.

Q 1: How will the water channeled from Bisri Dam be treated? Will it be safe to drink?

JRM: There is currently a water treatment plant between Bisri and Beirut, in a place called Ouardaniyeh where expansion work is going on via different projects. This additional capacity will be used to treat the water coming from the Bisri Dam and the treatment of water will be guaranteed according to international standards. 

One key element of our strategy is to work on the preventive pollution of the reservoir as well, so that the treatment is not too expensive and for obvious human health safety reasons. On this point, we (the Independent Panel of Experts on Environmental and Social Safeguards in charge of monitoring the Lebanon Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam) project) are going to be extremely concerned with the activities that will be allowed or forbidden on the reservoir and recreational activities will be controlled. The Environmental & Social Impact Assessment of the project has also committed to the management of land use in the catchment area.

Q 2: What is the plan to guarantee the quality of this water?

JRM: The quality of the water like I was saying is guaranteed by the monitoring of the 2 projects: The Bisri dam project and the Greater Beirut Water Supply (Awali Project) which includes the extension of the existing water treatment plant. Again, if there were to be issues of water quality, that is something that lenders (the World Bank) would take extremely seriously and would have a very close and intense discussion with the authorities in Lebanon.

Q 3: Are there good international examples in that domain?

JRM: Yes actually, plenty of good examples. Excuse me if my examples are a bit African as that is where I did most of my work. In the late 90’s in Burkina Faso, we helped build a dam for potable water in Ziga, 60 km from the capital city, with the French bilateral institutions and the World Bank. I was just reading this morning on the internet a report from an NGO which is usually a rather critical NGO about donors and about international institutions like the World Bank where they were saying that the combination of governmental and humanitarian efforts have made a big difference in the status of potable water in Burkina Faso, by allowing more people to access potable water and in the process, to improve their health and that of their children. 

We are really confident that the solution chosen for Bisri and the water supply to Beirut which is extremely needed, both in quantity and quality, will be very much positive for Lebanon.

*Dr. Mercier is an international expert in environmental and social impact assessment. He conducted strategic environmental and social assessments for projects funded by the European Commission, the French Government, the World Bank, and the French Development Agency (AFD) around the globe. He served as member of several Dams Experts Panels in various countries, often chairing the environmental and social panels. He currently chairs AFD’s analytical review of environmental and social risk operational management.