The Request for Inspection of the projects was submitted on June 24, 2019.
The Requesters expressed concern about the planned construction of the Bisri Dam in Lebanon and claimed that the assessment of alternatives was inadequate. They alleged that the dam would cause a loss of biodiversity and historical, cultural and religious values. According to the Requesters, the Water Supply Augmentation Project (WSAP) has not adequately studied earthquake threats and has not conducted a sufficiently in-depth cost-benefit analysis and assessment of water quantity. The Requesters also raised concern about the macroeconomic situation of Lebanon and claimed that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process infringed national law. In addition, they questioned the independence of some experts involved in the preparation and implementation of the WSAP and raised concern about a potential conflict of interest. The Request referred to an earlier complaint regarding the same projects (see case no. 127), for which the Panel in November 2018 recommended not conducting an investigation. The Board approved the recommendation on December 6, 2018. The Requesters explained that they were not satisfied with the Panel’s response and, based on new evidence and circumstances, they submitted a 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.
The Panel on September 4, 2019, issued a Notice of Non-Registration of the Request. In doing so, 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.