Beirut, April 16, 2020 - The Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam Project) aims to provide clean and reliable water supply to over 1.6 million people living across the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon (GBML) region, including 460,000 people living on less than $4 a day and who currently pay 3 different water bills (Government, tankers, and bottled water). The Bisri Dam has been considered for over 50 years and is a crucial part of Lebanon’s National Water Sector Strategy. The World Bank decided to fund this project based on technical, economic and environmental studies which were undertaken by the Lebanese Government and validated by international experts.
“The World Bank is committed to an open stakeholder engagement and dialogue in all the projects it funds”, said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “Throughout all phases of the Bisri Dam project preparation and implementation and ever since its approval by the Lebanese Government and ratification by the Lebanese Parliament, the World Bank has been, and remains, committed to engage openly and constructively with all stakeholders and civil society.”
Given strong stakeholder concerns about the Project, the World Bank has requested the Government of Lebanon to launch an open and transparent public dialogue to address the concerns raised by citizens and civil society groups. The Government announced earlier this month that it will launch this public dialogue soon. The World Bank welcomes the Government decision and looks forward to the successful launch and implementation of this dialogue and to its outcome. We believe that open dialogue is the only way forward to maintain a strong partnership between the Government, civil society and financing institutions.
Like other countries in the world, Lebanon is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak, compounded by the economic and financial crisis the country has been shouldering for a while now. Crisis of the sort often imply a change in national priorities in light of emerging needs. The World Bank has globally agreed to help countries re-channel available resources to emerging priorities of a more pressing and acute nature. In that respect, the World Bank has recently approved the re-allocation of a total of US$45.5 million under two ongoing operations, the Health Resilience Project (US$40 million)and the Supporting Innovation in Small and Medium Enterprises Project (US$5.5 million) to strengthen the Ministry of Public Health’s capacity to test and treat suspected COVID-19 cases, and to provide immediate support to Lebanese firms or research centers to produce medical supplies, equipment and services needed to fight COVID-19.
Lebanon faces the urgent need to provide immediate support to poor households, as well as to small firms and businesses severely impacted by the crisis. The World Bank is open to Government of Lebanon’s suggestions as to how the existing portfolio, including undisbursed amounts from the Bisri project, could be used more effectively to respond to the emerging needs of the Lebanese people.
The World Bank has been a long-standing partner of Lebanon and the Lebanese people and reiterates its commitment to support its efforts to address the social, financial and economic challenges it is enduring.