Friday, September 5, 1997

LebEnv #36


by Fareed Abou-Haidar

The following is a partial list of the most offensive quarries of Lebanon, as well as a few acceptable ones, in no particular order. A few have been indicated as "closed" based on my observations or knowledge, although many more have certainly been closed by the government.

  • Lower Nahr Ibrahim gorge, where the Friends of Nature staged a sit-in in the early 1980s to protest the quarry as well as four planned ones that were then canceled. It has destroyed a steep, verdant mountainside in this unique, spectacular, historical valley. Dynamiting has endangered the hydroelectric turbines farther up the gorge.

  • Upper Nahr Ibrahim gorge, downstream from the village of Janneh in the Qartaba area, destroying the heart of a rare, large, remote wilderness of water, rock, and trees.

  • The infamous Mseilha quarry, north of Batroun, that has destroyed the scenic valley surrounding an ancient Arab castle (often mistaken for Crusader) sitting on top of a large rock.

    (See also the main entry for Msaylha Castle. -ed.)

  • From the summer Patriarchal residence in Dimane, there is a terrific view of Wadi Qadisha (Qadisha Gorge). Unfortunately, across the gorge, there is a rock quarry. Although small, its effects on this very scenic and historical landscape is greater than might be expected elsewhere. Plus, you can hear the roars and squeaks of the bulldozer and trucks from across the gorge - not exactly what the founders of Dimane had in mind.

  • North of Baskinta, next to the Naba'a Sannine water bottling plant, where a small mountain has been decapitated by a sand quarry.

  • East of Ehmej, in the beautiful narrow, rocky valley on the way to Laklouk; the road to the quarry zig-zags up the mountainside, with debris pushed aside by the bulldozer, creating an ugly scar.

  • Wata el-Jawz, in the Keserwan near Faraya, where sand quarrying has destroyed a large area, damaged homes, and annoyed and endangered villagers for years with dust and noise from an endless stream of big trucks. (Closed)

  • North of Wata el-Jawz in the Keserwan, near the south side of Jabal Mousa, where a huge hole has replaced sculpted rocks. There are many other assorted rock quarries in the areas of the awesome karst limestone formations in the higher elevations of the Keserwan.

  • Nahr el-Maout, just north of Beirut, where an entire valley has been gouged out. For years, this invincible quarry could not be closed despite the protests of nearby residents whose houses had been damaged. It was only recently closed, but only after permanently tarnishing the classic view of Beirut with the snow-capped mountains behind it.

  • Jouret el-Ballout, below Broummana, where, in the late '70s or early 80s, a sand quarry caused the mountainside above it to collapse, destroying pine trees, a road, and endangering buildings.

  • The north end of Jabal el-Barouk, clearly visible from the Dahr el-Baidar highway. This high-elevation quarry is one of those that were allowed to remain open because, if rock has to come from somewhere, it may as well come from this barren, drab area. BUT, once its life span is over, it must be recontoured, reclaimed and revegetated.

  • Three quarries in the anti-Lebanon range, visible from the Bequa'a Valley. Assuming no rare ecological conditions there, they seem to be doing little damage in that barren area and are examples of relatively acceptable quarries.

  • The east base of Jabal el-Kneisseh. Although in a barren area, this large quarry is highly visible from many areas of the Bequa'a Valley and has deformed the overall view of this distinctive mountain behind Shtoura.

  • Wadi Saitanik, east of Saida, where a Roman bridge was destroyed by the ignoramuses running this dangerous quarry. In 1993, I observed it on a weekend as large pieces fell off its vertical sides; had that been a work day, workers could have been killed.

  • Nahr el-Kalb, where the famous rock where conquerors left their monuments over the centuries has been transformed into a hollow shell. (Closed)

  • Chnanaaif, in the steep, spectacular mountains overlooking the Bay of Jounieh. I saw this travesty in 1984; it is a big hole with vertical walls that has eaten up an entire mountainside in a very scenic and desirable area of Lebanon. More recently, this place was involved in the infamous toxic-waste barrels scandal. It is one of the sites where barrels of imported toxic wastes were buried, threatening ground water.

  • Fairouz's bus trip between Wadi Tannourin and Hamlaya is no longer cause for singing. Between Darayya and Hamlaya (in Wadi Darayya near Deir Chamra) is one of the ugliest quarries in Lebanon; it has destroyed the famous vista of Mount Sannine as seen from many places such as Ajeltoun. It has trashed a pristine valley in the drainage of Nahr el-Kalb, which is the main source of Beirut's fresh water supply. In fact, the water of Jeita cave, which supplies Beirut, has been threatened with siltation from erosion caused by that quarry.

  • A Lebanese minister recently started operating a quarry in the town of Jieh in lower Shouf. His partners include a very high-ranked official from outside Lebanon. This quarry is reported to be destroying a beautiful creek in Jieh. (Information is courtesy of a member of SCL responding to my previous article.)

  • Between Mansourieh and Zandouqua (below Broummana in the Meten). (Photo B-14) This gravel quarry has eaten up a huge chunk of the mountain on the south side of Nahr el-Joaamani, a tributary of Nahr Beirut. A few dust-covered pine trees cling to an outcrop that is sure to be swallowed by the crushing machines and excreted into the smelly trucks, to be hauled off to fuel the construction boom defacing Lebanon.

    This quarry has a very questionable background:

    1. The land belongs to a religious institution whose headquarters are not very far away. Religious institutions should not be involved in the destruction of Lebanon; they own large areas of some of the most spectacular wild areas and should be striving to protect God's creation.
    2. The operator of the quarry is a Member of Parliament representing that part of Lebanon. This may sound laughable to some, but I still believe a representative of the people should not be involved in destroying the very area he represents.
    3. The lease was granted to this person with no competitive bidding, bypassing required procedures.

  • And let's not forget the quarry that produces the raw material for the Portland cement factory in Shikka. A huge area has been gouged out. We can't do much here, as the damage had been done, and the concrete for building has to come somewhere. The urgent issue here is air pollution threatening the health of residents and the environment all the way to The Cedars. In the long run, the mined-out areas need to be rehabilitated into residential areas and/or forests similar to what was there before, as Lebanon is too small for land to be left in a wasted condition like that.

Next time, I will have yet more to say about quarries, including a response to comments by an SCLer.

(See other photographs from some of the areas mentioned above.)



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