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The Daily Star
December 16, 2004

Jiyyeh sand extraction worries environmentalists

Public Works committee demand engineering report after 17 environmental groups sound alarm

Contractor allegedly taking sand day and night and selling it immediately

By Rita Boustani

BEIRUT: Parliament's Public Works Committee demanded Wednesday that engineers at the Central Inspection Department submit a report on sand extraction operations in Jiyyeh after 17 environmental associations sounded the alarm over the weekend. 

The associations, including the Association of Professional Divers, Green Line, Bahr Loubnane, Byblos Ecologia, Greenpeace, Nature without Frontiers, Amwaj, Earth, Al-Marbah al-Akhdar and Chouhah al-Biaa, issued a statement Saturday denouncing extensive sand extraction from the sea in the Jiyyeh area. 

The Middle East Company is currently carrying out the extraction with a permit from the Directorate General of Land and Sea Transport to "clean the Jiyyeh power plant area from sand and other substances." 

Chairman of the parliamentary committee, Beirut MP Mohammed Qabbani, said the Central Inspection Department would have to answer the following questions: 

"Did a specialized office conduct the study prepared by Electricite du Liban on the limits of and depth of extraction? To what extent is the contractor respecting the study, and has it extracted sand outside the authorized limit, especially during the night? Are the contractor's operations being seriously monitored, especially during the night and outside official working hours?" 

The environmental associations' statement said the "contractor has been extracting sand during the night without any supervision from the ministry, adding that the pumps are working, even during the day, far from the locations defined in the permit." 

It also claimed too much sand had been extracted and was being sold immediately afterward. The associations backed up their claims with photographs.

According to their statement, the LL482,400 million contract gives the contractor the right to extract 67,000 square meters from the basin, which contains sea water used to cool the turbines, with a 15 percent margin of error. 

The associations challenged the permit and requested that sand extraction stop immediately. The Public Works Ministry refused their demand. 

The engineer supervising the operation - who, according to the associations' statement, is paid by the contractor - said "the work was taking place within the terms of reference." 

The associations also sent letters to Energy and Water Minister Maurice Sehnawi and Public Works and Transport Minister Yassin Jaber to "put an end to this flagrant environmental crime, which is taking place under the pretext of cleaning water drains in power plants without being based on any scientific study ..." 

The group has also asked for an appointment with Environment Minister Wiam Wahhab, but, as of yet, had not received any official reply to their request or letters. 

According to Qabbani, the sand of Lebanon 's shores is a "national treasure" that should be protected and not used for construction purposes. 

"If there is a need for sand extraction from any location, as it is the case today in Jiyyeh, that sand should be taken to shores in other locations because sand is very important for tourism, and is therefore an essential national treasury," he said.