"Nabih Berri Fishermen Port" is set to be the new name of the coast of Adloun in southern Lebanon.
Earlier this month, a new governmental project – Nabih Berri Fishermen Port – was launched in Adloun by Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport. It reportedly aims to transform the coast of the historical Adloun town into a well-equipped modernized port. Many residents objected to the destruction of the historic sites, however, Adloun’s municipality tried to justify the project by highlighting the benefits of the project. The Ministry of Environment said that it has not authorized the project and that its environmental study of it has not been concluded. Yet, work on the project has not halted and is being pushed forward by the Ministry of Public Works, which is headed by a member of the Amal Movement, which is led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
“The original project, launched by the previous municipality [board], was to build a pier that is accessible to the public, where people can do different activities,” said Mohammad (pseudonym), a resident from Adloun. “This project would not have affected the coast’s environment and the historic sites would have been preserved. In addition, residents could have benefited from it on an economic level, since they would have the chance to open coffee shops and small restaurants for tourists.”
The coast of the historical town of Adloun is rich in archaeological sites, such as prehistoric caves and ports, including the Phoenician ruins of Ma’rubbu city with its three ports. The coast of Adloun is almost inaccessible to the public. The southern coastal town is now one of the many places in Lebanon where public properties have been privatized – and public access is denied to Lebanese citizens – for commercial use. Private agricultural areas extended along the coastline make it hard for the town’s residents to easily access the public beach. According to Adloun residents, there is only one entrance from which they can access the public beach. The new project will use it as the new port’s entrance and it will no longer be accessible to the public.
Despite the objections of residents, the municipality of Adloun is encouraging the work on the project and is pushing it forward. “The new port will encourage fishing activities. Fishers will significantly benefit from it,” Adloun’s mayor Samih Wehbe told NOW. “It will offer a lot of job opportunities and will organize the fishing business. It will be environmentally beneficial, too, because it will stop the use of dynamites for fishing purposes.” Wehbe told NOW that the number of residents who are against the new project is very small and does not exceed 2 percent of Adloun residents. He also said that the municipality is not aware of any conflict with the Ministry of Environment regarding the authorization of the project, especially since it is a governmental initiative and it was not launched by the municipality itself. “The new port will have significant benefits for the town and will be a very big project. It will preserve the right of the public to access the public beach and will implement a system of public safety for swimmers too. There will also be an information branch for the Lebanese army inside the port in the near future,” he said.
The dominance of Berri’s Amal Movement is easily noticeable in Adloun. Not all residents whom NOW tried to speak to were willing to voice their opinions; people spoke on condition of anonymity. “We are against the project,” said Amal (pseudonym). “But, no matter how much we object and launch campaigns against it, we know de facto that the new port will be built against our will. It all goes back to the power dynamics in Adloun and in Lebanon, in general.”
Moreover, many residents linked the construction of the new port at this particular time to the developing oil and gas sector in Lebanon. “When the topic of oil and gas became a trend in Lebanon and when it was confirmed that gas can be found along the coastal line in Lebanon, powerful Lebanese authorities started to take advantage of it,” said Mohammad. “Unfortunately, Adloun became a target since the port of Adloun could be a highly beneficial area for them. Consequently, the old project was brought down and the new project – that local authorities know will mean commercial gain – was launched.”
“We are not against development projects that the town and its residents can benefit from, regardless of the name they choose for them or the political party that launches the initiative, especially those that increase job opportunities for Adloun’s youth;” said Mohammad. “But we are against any project that destroys the town’s historic sites.”
“The main beneficiaries of this project are those who are occupying public properties in Lebanon, in general. Unfortunately, the state is not doing anything to stop them. On the contrary, state institutions – that are controlled by these people – are the ones launching the initiatives,” Amal told NOW.
Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah