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Lebanon Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam)

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Overview

Context

Expected Benefits for People in Lebanon

Project Details

Analysis of Alternatives

Environmental and Social Risk Mitigation

Dam Safety

Water Quality

Protecting  Biodiversity

Preserving Cultural and Archeological Sites

Limiting Impacts on Local Communities

Consulting Civil Society


Overview 

People living in the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon area face acute water scarcity. According to various climate change projections, the water scarcity is expected to further worsen. This Project will benefit over 1.6 million people living across Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon, including 460,000 living on less than $4 a day, who will have access to clean and improved water supply service without spending additional expenses on alternative water sources.

Context 

For decades, the Lebanese population has been subject to severe water supply shortages, often receiving access to only 1-3 hours of water per day, due to the country’s limited water resources, infrastructure deficit, and suboptimal water resources management. The population thus relies on expensive bottled and tanker water, which disproportionately affects the poor. Lebanon is a water-scarce country with uncertain bulk water supply sources. Groundwater is exploited at unsustainable levels, and the coastal aquifers suffer from seawater intrusion. The total number of licensed individual private wells is estimated at 20,000 wells in the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon area (GBML). Further, there are an estimated additional 60,000 illegal wells. Surface water storage capacity is very low in Lebanon, with only 6 percent of total resources being stored compared to the regional average of 85 percent (Middle East and North Africa). 

Expected Benefits for People in Lebanon

The Project will secure water to the residents in the Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon area. Residents will benefit from improved water services and in some areas will have continuous water supply service. They will no longer need to rely on alternative water sources and will see substantial reductions in their household water expenditures. With the water supply available from the network, residents will no longer be forced to rely on wells which will reduce pressure on groundwater and allow to restore Beirut’s groundwater and diminish coastal salt-water intrusion.

The Project will contribute to the promotion of development projects for communities in the Bisri Dam area. Local people in communities surrounding the Dam will have access to a Benefit-Sharing Program that contributes to promoting new sources of income, including ecotourism.

A dam will be constructed on the Bisri River in South Lebanon and will store 125 million cubic meters of water, filling up naturally in the winter and spring for use during the summer and fall. Water will flow to Beirut entirely by gravity and will not incur pumping costs through a 26-kilometer underground tunnel and be treated at the Wardanieh Water treatment  plant on the way. The Bisri Dam is expected to be built in about 5 years.

Two International Panel of Experts are in charge of reviewing and continuously monitoring every aspect of the Project’s design, construction and operations to ensure due diligence on technical, social, environmental, and archeological aspects according to international best practices and the World Bank policies. The International Panel of Experts on Dam Safety gathers some of the world’s most renowned experts in hydrology, dam safety, seismology, and geology. The one on Environmental and Social Protection gathers world-class experts in environment, social, and archeology.

The Project is one of the World Bank’s largest projects in the country—a US$474 million loan to increase municipal water supplies. The Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Lebanon are also providing parallel financing (of US$128million and US$15million respectively), toward the total cost of US$617million.

Project Details 

Approval Date by the World Bank

September 30, 2014

Closing Date

June 30, 2024

Total Project Cost

US$ 617.00 million

Implementing Agency

Council for Development and Reconstruction

Financed by

Government of Lebanon, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank

Location

Located at 35 kilometers south of Beirut immediately upstream of the village of Bisri.

Storage Size

125 million cubic meters of water

Functioning

Bisri Dam reservoir will fill up naturally during the rainy season to be used during summer and fall. Without pumping, treated water will flow to the GBML area entirely by gravity through a 26-kilometer underground tunnel. It will be distributed to households though networks which are currently being rehabilitated as part of the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project (funded by the World Bank). 

Water treatment

Water stored in the Bisri Dam will be treated at the Wardaniyeh water treatment plant.

Timeline

Construction of the Dam will take about five years from the date of signature of the construction contract.

 

Analysis of Alternatives

The Government of Lebanon (GoL) has been considering the Bisri Dam project for over 50 years. It is a crucial part of Lebanon’s National Water Sector Strategy.

During the design of the Project, the GoL commissioned a detailed Analysis of Alternatives, which examined the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of:

  • four dam options (Bisri, Janna, Damour East and Damour West)

  • several non-dam options, including improved groundwater management, desalination, demand management and treated wastewater reuse.

The analysis showed that a combination of non-dam and dam actions was required to increase the volume of water provided to the GBML on the long-term.

The construction of Bisri Dam is part of a series of coordinated investments and reforms combining non-dam and dam actions, required to provide water security for GBML until at least 2035.

Environmental and Social Risk Mitigation

During project preparation, the Council for Development and Reconstruction carried out an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in close collaboration with government agencies, civil society, the private sector and community members. The ESIA was reviewed and approved by the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. 

In order to mitigate the environment and social impacts assessed in the ESIA, an Environment and Social Management Plan (ESMP) was developed. It is made up of mitigation measures that are proportional and sufficient to mitigate the impacts identified in the ESIA. 

In addition, a detailed Resettlement Action Plan was developed. It details the process through which land expropriation and resettlement will be undertaken. 

Dam Safety

The Government of Lebanon designed the Bisri Dam as per the state-of-the-art seismic hazard assessment and design. An independent international panel of experts on dam safety reviewed the design and confirmed that the Bisri Dam is designed to withstand the worst earthquakes and that it will not in itself trigger earthquakes. The Bisri Dam will be equipped with seismic monitoring instruments that will continuously monitor the structure of the dam. Also, an Emergency Preparedness Plan was developed.

Water Quality

The water from Bisri Dam will be treated and potable for consumers.

The water that will flow from the Bisri Dam will reach Joun Lake which will be filled from various sources, namely the Awali river (stored in Bisri), Ain Zarqa Spring, Jezzine Springs and Lake Qaraoun. The Joun Lake water will be treated at a state-of-the-art water treatment plant in Wardanieh, 30 kilometers south of Beirut (see map). The treated water will flow through a conveyor to the upgraded GBML distribution system, ensuring steady and reliable water supply to up to 1.6 million residents of the area. The water will be safe to drink and will meet Lebanese drinking standards (LIBNOR NL 161) and/or EU standards (98/83/EC), whichever is the more stringent. The water quality will be monitored in the Joun Lake and at the exit of the Wardanieh water treatment plant to guarantee its quality. 

The water flow will allow the transition from the current intermittent water supply to continuous water supply in Beirut in a phased manner. Based on global experience, steady water supply is safer for consumers. Water remains safe in any distribution system when pipes are constantly full. In intermittent supply systems, pumping stops randomly and the pressure in the pipes drops. This allows for groundwater from the surrounding areas to seep in, bringing with it wastewater from denizens. As GBML transitions to continuous water supply, the water quality will gradually improve.

See note on Water Quality from New Sources for the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon Region, extracted from the World Bank’s Inspection Panel case 71.

Protecting Biodiversity

A detailed Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) was put in place to mitigate impacts on biodiversity based on the results of a detailed ecological survey covering all major taxa, including amphibians, reptiles and macro-invertebrates, as well as location and habitat usage information for flora, mammals, birds and fish. The objective of the BAP is to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts by having an ecological offset for the habitats that will be lost under the reservoir, through translocating some of the species, conserving or strengthening existing natural habitats. These offsets will be designed in a way that the biodiversity result of the Bisri Dam is ideally with “net gains” and at the minimum with “no loss”. Biodiversity work will be financed by the Project.

Preserving Cultural and Archeological Sites 

The Mar Moussa church and the remains of the Saint Sophia monastery will be relocated nearby, with close oversight of the Maronite church authorities and parishioners. Archeological sites will be investigated, documented and preserved when needed with close coordination and supervision of the Directorate General of Antiquities. Archeological works will be financed by the Project.

Limiting Impacts on Local Communities

A detailed Resettlement Action Plan was developed and is subject to an independent review mechanism that monitors its implementation.

Grievance Redress Mechanism provides clear and accountable means for affected persons to raise complaints and seek remedies when they believe they have been affected by the Project. It is closely monitored by both the environmental and social independent panel of experts and the World Bank.

A Benefit-Sharing Program for communities impacted by the Project was created to ensure that local people in the surrounding communities can also benefit from the Reservoir. It will promote employment opportunities, improve community services and social welfare, and ensure surrounding communities share the benefits from subsequent development of the reservoir shoreline and adjacent areas.

Consulting Civil Society

The Council for Development and Reconstruction consulted civil society during the preparation and implementation of the Project. Around twenty-eight public meetings and focused group discussions with beneficiaries, project-affected persons, NGOs and civil society groups were conducted between April 2012 and May 2017. Additional consultations on the Biodiversity Action Plan were conducted in 2018. Feedback received from consultations was taken into account in the Project’s design and implementation and has notably resulted in the addition of the Grievance Redress Mechanism and the Benefit Sharing Program.

For the World Bank, communication with all stakeholders on the due diligence around the Project and on the implementation progress is essential and remains one of the priorities. The Bank is engaged in an open and inclusive dialogue and organizes regular meetings with NGOs. To further increase transparency, the World Bank has arranged videoconferences between the NGOs and the Independent Panel of Experts and translation was made available to ensure that civil society has access to the information provided. The Bank team also arranged for meetings with World Bank experts on matters of concern to the NGOs including social, environment, archeology, hydrology, hydrogeology, dam safety.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Bisri Dam Project & Answers

Why is there a need for a dam in Bisri?  Who will benefit from it?

What is the dam storage capacity? 

How long will it take for the dam to be built?

Will the Bisri Dam be safe?

Will the water be treated before reaching households?

How will local communities be affected by the Bisri Dam?

Will the Bisri Dam affect the rich biodiversity in the region?

What is planned for the cultural and archeological sites in the area?

Aren’t there simpler and cheaper ways to increase water supply to GBML?

Why the focus on the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon region?

Was civil society involved in the process? Were their concerns taken into account?

Has the Bank adhered to its procedures and guidelines in its work on the Bisri Dam project?

What was the World Bank’s response to the latest Inspection Panel request?

Would you like to add anything else?

The Water Supply Augmentation Project, led by the Lebanese government, aims to increase the volume of water available to the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon area where approximately half of the Lebanese population lives. The Project is financed by the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and Government of Lebanon. In this Q&A, Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director, for the Middle East, explains the importance of the Bisri Dam project for resolving Beirut’s long-lasting water shortage problem.

Q 1: Why is there a need for a dam in Bisri?  Who will benefit from it?

SKJ: The Bisri Dam will resolve one major problem that Lebanon’s residents have faced since the civil war: severe and chronic water shortages.

Over 1.6 million people living across the Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon (GBML), including 460,000 living on less than $4 a day, will have improved access to clean water.  Once the dam is built, households will be able to depend on the public water network and will no longer need to rely on alternative water sources. They will hence see substantial reductions in their household water expenditures.

Q 2: What is the dam storage capacity? 

SKJ: It is worthwhile to note that the Bisri Dam will capture rainwater that is normally flowing to the sea and will allow Lebanon to store the water in winter to be used during the dry season, when people need water the most.

The Bisri Dam will be constructed immediately upstream of the village of Bisri on the Bisri river. It will store 125 million cubic meters of water, and will fill up naturally in the winter and spring for use during the summer and fall. Without pumping, the water will flow to the GBML area entirely by gravity. It will go through a 26-kilometer underground tunnel, treated through the Ouardaniyeh water treatment plant, and distributed though networks that are currently being rehabilitated as part of the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project.  

Q 3: How long will it take for the dam to be built?

SKJ: Construction of the dam will take about five years from the signing of the contract.

Q 4: Will the Bisri Dam be safe?

SKJ: Thank you for this question. Yes, the Bisri Dam will be safe.

The Government of Lebanon designed the Bisri Dam per the state-of-the-art seismic hazard assessment and design. An independent panel of international experts has reviewed the design of the dam and the geological studies and confirmed that it is safe.

These are internationally renowned technical experts in dam engineering, geology, and seismology who have worked on dams around the world, including dams located in seismic areas. In short, they confirmed that the Bisri Dam is designed to withstand the worst earthquakes and it will not in itself trigger them.  Also, the Bisri Dam will be equipped with seismic monitoring instruments that will continuously monitor the structure of the dam.

Q 5: Will the water be treated before reaching households?

SKJ: The water from Bisri Dam will be safe to drink, indeed.

The water that will flow from the Bisri Dam will reach Joun Lake which will be filled from various sources, namely the Awali river (stored in Bisri), Ain Zarqa Spring, Jezzine Springs and Lake Qaraoun. The Joun Lake water will be treated at a state-of-the-art water treatment plant in Wardanieh, 30 kilometers south of Beirut (see map). The treated water will flow through a conveyor to the upgraded GBML distribution system, ensuring steady and reliable water supply to up to 1.6 million residents of the area. The water will be safe to drink and will meet Lebanese drinking standards (LIBNOR NL 161) and/or EU standards (98/83/EC), whichever is the more stringent. The water quality will be monitored in the Joun Lake and at the exit of the Wardanieh water treatment plant to guarantee its quality. 

See note on Water Quality from New Sources for the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon Region, extracted from the World Bank’s Inspection Panel case 71.

Q 6: How will local communities be affected by the Bisri Dam?

SKJ: The project was designed according to international best practice in reducing the impacts on local communities. Those who will be impacted by the project are entirely accounted for and measures are put in place to ensure that their livelihoods are sustained and concerns are addressed.

The expropriation of land is ongoing and affects 861 landowners of which only 96 live in the area and rely on the land partially for their income and livelihood. Land owners are provided cash compensation calculated at replacement cost in accordance with the World Bank’s policies. Additional assistance will be provided to help restore incomes and rehabilitate livelihoods as needed.

A comprehensive Resettlement Action Plan was developed and details the process through which land expropriation and resettlement is being undertaken. The document was consulted widely with the landowners and their representatives, and is publicly disclosed and available at www.cdr.gov.lb

Q 7: Will the Bisri Dam affect the rich biodiversity in the region?

SKJ: This is an important question. Mitigating the impacts on biodiversity is a key priority of this project.

A detailed action plan was put in place. It is based on a biodiversity survey covering all major taxa, including amphibians, reptiles and macro-invertebrates, as well as location and habitat usage information for flora, mammals, birds and fish. This biodiversity survey has been recently updated, as part of a comprehensive Ecological Compensation Plan. The objective is to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts, through translocating some of the species, conserving or strengthening existing natural habitats, restoration of abandoned quarries and afforestation/reforestation. These activities are designed in a way that the biodiversity result of the Bisri Dam is ideally with “net gains” and at the minimum with “no loss”. The Ecological Compensation Plan is being prepared under close supervision from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture. The plan has been thoroughly consulted during the past few months with different stakeholders, including different government agencies, municipalities, religious notables, NGOs, consultants and research institutes. The Ecological Compensation Plan is near completion and will be reviewed by the Ministry of Environment. 

A specialized team of environmental experts is working closely with the Ministry of Environment to monitor the implementation of the Environment and Social Management Plan which was also publicly disclosed and is available at www.cdr.gov.lb.

Q 8: What is planned for the cultural and archeological sites in the area?

SKJ: Having worked for a long time in Lebanon, the World Bank is very much aware of the prevalence and value of Lebanon’s cultural and archeological wealth. This is why we are supporting the Ministry of Culture in ensuring that the cultural and archeological sites are fully preserved. The Mar Moussa church and the remains of the Saint Sophia monastery will be relocated nearby and made accessible to parishioners and tourists, with the close oversight of the Maronite church authorities and parishioners. As for the archeological sites, a state-of-the art survey is currently taking place to reveal the history of the valley, which is seen, by archeologist, as a model to be followed by development projects. Any archeological findings will be preserved with close coordination and supervision of the Directorate General of Antiquities. Archeological works will be financed by the project.

Q 9: Aren’t there simpler and cheaper ways to increase water supply to GBML?

SKJ: For decades, the Lebanese government, civil society, academia and their international partners have examined the most cost effective, sustainable and least impactful way to ensure safe drinking water to Lebanon’s residents. The Lebanese National Strategy for Water, which was based on a nationally-owned process, concluded that the construction of a dam at the Bisri site was one of the ways in which Lebanon can capture and utilize its water resources effectively.

Indeed, during the design of the project, the Government commissioned a detailed Analysis of Alternatives, which examined the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of four dam options (Bisri, Janna, Damour East and Damour West) and several non-dam options, including improved groundwater management, desalination, demand management and treated wastewater reuse. The analysis showed that a combination of non-dam and dam actions was needed to increase the volume of water provided to the GBML on the long-term.

The Bank is working closely with various actors in the sector to support the implementation of several non-dam actions that are also critical to the full implementation of Lebanon’s water strategy.

Q 10: Why the focus on the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon region?

SKJ: The Government of Lebanon has prioritized this project as a way to ensure that 1.6 million people living in the Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon area have improved access to safe and clean water.  Meanwhile, the Bank is also working closely with the Government across many sectors and across the entire territory of Lebanon. We are supporting the environment, transport, health, education and social protection sectors across Lebanon, including those areas that are directly impacted by the large influx of Syrian refugees.

Q 11: Was civil society involved in the process? Were their concerns taken into account?

Absolutely. During preparation and implementation, between April 2012 and May 2017, 28 public meetings and focused group discussions were conducted with beneficiaries, project-affected persons, NGOs and civil society groups. Meetings were announced through local newspapers, and several representatives from NGOs and civil society groups attended the sessions.

Mitigating environmental and social risks during the construction and operation of dams is a high priority. An Environment and Social Impact Assessment was carried out in close collaboration with government agencies, civil society, the private sector and community members and has been approved by the Ministry of Environment. A detailed Resettlement Action Plan was also developed and details the process through which land expropriation and resettlement will be undertaken. Both documents were publicly disclosed and are available at www.cdr.gov.lb

Q 12.  Has the Bank adhered to its procedures and guidelines in its work on the Bisri Dam project?

SKJ: Yes. The Inspection Panel, an independent accountability mechanism of the World Bank, has twice registered a Request for Inspection related to water projects in Lebanon in recent years but in each case, it did not recommend an investigation into the issues raised in the requests.  In both cases, the Bank’s Board agreed with the Panel’s conclusions. 

The first request came to The Panel in November, 2010, and raised concerns about water quality, increase in water tariffs, and water availability related to the then proposed Greater Beirut Water Supply Project.  The second request came in September, 2018 and concerned the Lebanon Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam), and the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project and additional financing.  It focused on environmental, economic, archaeological, and safety issues. 

Q 13. What was the World Bank’s response to the latest Inspection Panel request?

SKJ: The World Bank management carefully reviewed the concerns of the requestors regarding the potential impact that might arise from the Bisri Dam Project and confirmed that these were carefully analyzed during project preparation, in line with Bank policies and due diligence procedures.  In Management’s view, possible project impacts are appropriately addressed as part of the Environmental and Social Impact AssessmentEnvironmental and Social Management Plan, and Resettlement Action Plan

Management confirmed that the Bisri Dam Project had been designed based on scientific studies undertaken by world-class international and local experts and reviewed by two panels – one on Dam Safety and another on Environment and Social issues – as well as World Bank experts. 

In addition, the project team has had extensive communications with the Requesters’ representatives on the issues raised in the request, engaging in detailed email communication and face-to-face meetings.  To further strengthen the consultation process, the project team will sustain a high frequency of supervision missions and site visits, continue to engage with stakeholders, especially women, and ensure that progress on the various action plans are documented and made publicly available.

Q 14: Would you like to add anything else?

SKJ: Yes. The Lebanese government has been considering the Bisri Dam project for over 30 years and it is a crucial part of Lebanon’s National Water Strategy. For our part, the World Bank aims to support this pro-poor project and we will supervise its implementation very closely to ensure it meets the highest international standards.

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Two independent international panels of experts, one on Dam Safety and the other on Environmental and Social, monitor the project. They gather global experts in dam safety, seismology, geology, hydrology and environment, sociology and archeology. They are in charge of reviewing and continuously monitoring every aspect of the project’s design, construction and operations to ensure due diligence on technical, social, environmental, and archeological aspects according to international best practices and the World Bank policies. 

Reports:

  • Independent International Panel of Experts on Environmental and Social: Environment and Archeology Mission (March 2016), Social Safeguards Mission (July 2016), Environmental, Archeology and Social Safeguards Mission (February 2017 )

Interviews with Independent Experts: 


Inspection Panel of the World Bank

The World Bank’s Inspection Panel, an independent accountability mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project, has reviewed a Request for Inspection related to the Water Supply Augmentation Project and recommended to the Bank’s Board that no investigation was warranted. The World Bank’s Executive Directors Board on December 6, 2018, approved the Inspection Panel recommendation not to investigate the Project (See Inspection Panels’ report)

On June 24, 2019, the Inspection Panel received a Request for Inspection related to the Water Supply Augmentation Project. The Request referred to the Request for Inspection (case no. 127). On September 4, 2019, the Panel issued a Notice of Non-Registration of the Request.


Factsheet
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Download the factsheet to learn more about the project.



Contacts

Zeina El Khalil

zelkhalil@worldbank.org