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Panel Issues Notice of Non-Registration for Request for Inspection of Lebanon Water Projects

The Inspection Panel on September 4, 2019, issued a Notice of Non-Registration for a Request of Inspection of the Water Supply Augmentation Project (WSAP) and the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project and its Additional Financing in Lebanon.

The Request was submitted on June 24, 2019, by Lebanon Eco Movement, a network of 60 environmental non-governmental organizations, representing 105 residents and landowners. The Request also included as an attachment a petition with more than 30,000 signatures of people from Lebanon and other countries opposing the construction of the Bisri Dam under the WSAP. The Requesters asked for confidentiality and authorized Lebanon Eco Movement to represent them during the Panel process.

The Requesters alleged harm from construction of the Bisri Dam, including the loss of biodiversity and cultural landscape, earthquake threats and issues related to the analysis of alternatives, the assessment of water balance and cost effectiveness. They also stated that Lebanon’s economy is on the brink of collapse with additional debt and unnecessary construction and operational costs causing harm to the country. The June 2019 Request referred to an earlier Request for Inspection regarding the same projects (see case no. 127) for which the Panel in November 2018 recommended not to conduct an investigation. That recommendation was approved by the Board of Executive Director on December 6, 2018. The Requesters explained that they were not satisfied with the Panel’s earlier response and, based on new evidence and circumstances, they submitted the new Request.

As part of its due diligence, the Panel reviewed the information presented in the Request and its attachments, relevant project documentation and conducted two phone calls with the representatives of the Requesters on July 25, 2019, and August 13, 2019. The Panel also met with World Bank management on August 5, 2019.

In issuing the Notice of Non-Registration, the Panel noted that under its Resolution, Clarifications and Operating Procedures if a Request raises similar matters as a previous Request for which the Panel has made a recommendation, then the new complaint must present new evidence or circumstances related to the Requesters’ concerns. The Panel stated that in its judgment the new information presented in this case did not constitute new evidence or circumstances that warranted registration of the Request.

With regard to the Requesters’ concerns about reservoir-triggered seismicity, the Panel noted that in line with Bank policy, a Dam Safety Panel with internationally recognized experts has been established to review and advise the borrower on matters relative to dam safety and other critical aspects of the dam. The Panel also noted that during its due diligence for its earlier recommendation not to investigate it had access to the relevant dam safety reports and substantively considered potential non-compliance by the Bank in relation to these concerns. Regarding the Requesters’ concerns about the macroeconomic situation of Lebanon, the Panel noted that necessary economic analyses were carried out for the Bisri Dam in line with Bank policy, and that subsequent changes in the macroeconomic situation of a country need to be addressed in the context of the country engagement, beyond a specific project. The Panel added that issues raised by the Requesters regarding the overall macroeconomic situation of Lebanon were not within its mandate.