After several weeks of organizing and documentation by activists, the minister of environment has called for a halt to a port project that threatens to destroy the natural coast in Adloun (South Lebanon) believed to be the location of an ancient civilization.
However, in this report by LBC, there appears to be a tug-of-war going on between the Ministry of Public Works, which is carrying out excavation works, and the Environment and Culture Ministries who say work must stop until studies have taken place and a joint committee is allowed to examine the project, dubbed “Nabih Berri Port.” The Ministry of Public Works says the other ministries have failed to come up with any proposals for over 15 days, giving them the defacto right to carry on with the project. So in the meantime the destruction of the rocky coast, which is claimed to be a Phoenician port town, is continuing and LBC says the ancient ruins may be lost before a joint-committee is formed to investigate the matter.
One interesting aspect left out of the LBC report is that the Public Works Ministry, which is adamant on pushing forward with the project, is being led by a political subordinate of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whom the new port is being named after.
According to a report by Al Akhbar, the “Nabih Berri Port” project is worth around $26.6 million and encompasses an area of 164,000 square meters. While the ministry says the project will create jobs and serve the surrounding fishing community, Al Akhbar and local activists say the port is being designed to accommodate 400 luxury yachts, that will cause massive environmental damage to the village, which does not have the infrastructure to accommodate such traffic. Al Akhbar alleges that destruction continues despite cessation requests from the other ministries and in the absence of an environmental impact study, a claim also carried in a report by the Lebanese lawyers’ collective Legal Agenda. Al Akhbar further reports that the awarding of the excavation contract to “Khoury Contracting Company” came under an irregular bid and with little input from or discussion with the local community.
In a report by Al Jadeed TV, the head of a south Lebanon preservation group says Adloun is a known Phoenician port site that has not been properly excavated. She says that it is preservation and celebration of Adloun’s heritage that will bring economic benefits to the local community, not converting the site into yet another playground for the wealthy.
Much of the outcry and media coverage over what is happening to the site was sparked by the work of local activist group Green Southerns who have been documenting the destruction on a daily basis with a series of amateur videos like this one, which have in turn been carried by mainstream media:
As well as reports on the site’s archeological significance:
The Green Southern group has also documented Adloun’s ecological and marine life significance as an increasingly rare sea turtle nesting ground:
It’s hard to say what the precise archeological history of the current excavation site is from pictures alone and the reporting thus far, although it is clear that the Adloun area has been the site of numerous archeological expeditions dating back to the the late 1800s with evidence uncovered suggesting both Phoenician as well as pre-historic remains dating back to 70,000 BCE.
What’s also disconcerting about the rush to build over Adloun is how the state and it’s crony capital partners have once again managed to seize public coastal property for what could be luxury, exclusive development under the guise of ‘public good’.
As I reported for The Guardian last year, the Lebanese coast has largely been colonized by illegal or vaguely legal projects that have fenced off much of the coast from the public, denying the constitutional right to beach access. According to the government’s own studies, there are approximately five illegal resorts usurping public maritime property for every one kilometer stretch of Lebanon’s 220 kilometer coastline.
A lot of these infractions took place during the last three decades, well before the inception of social media and the subsequent enhancement of activism bolstered by popular blog posts as well as increased mainstream media attention. Will this make a difference in the case of projects planned for Adloun, Dalieh, Byblos and other planned–and now fiercely opposed–projects? In some respects, it already has, but will be the long term impacts?
You can follow more of Green Southerns work on their Facebook page where they have recently launched on online petition to preserve the site. They’ve also recently staged a demonstration at the National Museum to get the press’s attention: