Mazraat beni’ Saab: Ecotourist area and the Council of State decision

February 12, 2004
By

The Quarries: Environment disaster in Lebanon
Mazraat Beni’ Saab is a region of tourist and ecological importance, situated in the North of Lebanon in a huge valley, we found
1- Forests of Lebanese Cedars old of many thousands years and other kind of Lebanese trees (Pine trees etc…)

2- Source of Water coming from Grottos

3- Monasteries of archeological interest, old of more than sixteen hundred years, made inside the mountains

THE QUARRIES
The problem started on September 1999, a quarry working inside the forest of Mazraat Bani Saab, making a disaster, the water got-up from the bottom of the ground, the cedars are destroyed, the whole region and people there are angry. This quarry was permitted by the Interior Ministry, it is located at the edge of a protected forest of Qnat. The law was overruled. Our attention started by calling to stop the quarry, many letters to the concerned ministers (of environment, of interior etc..).The European union had a project to rehabilitate three older quarries in the same region, while When EU officials went up to check on the project, they were shocked at another quarry opening up right next to the site starting their project they found a quarry working there..The concerned ministers responded to stop the quarry after pressures from our part. The media was always in our side.
A 1994 decree requires an environmental impact assessment before such a quarry is allowed to start.
3 weeks later, the quarry is suddenly reopened. Why? The interior ministry allowed the reopening of the quarry.
Meanwhile many demands of permits for quarries (more than 15 demands of different quarries) are deposited in the interior ministry and the ministry of environment. This will, of course, destroy the ecological site.
Those demands are reinforced by owners’ petition. Angry residents, however, were tricked into signing the owners’ petition, a petition whose contents were not clear. They targeted the elderly and illiterate to sign It. They thought it was a petition to bring water to their home.
After many efforts, the president of the republic ordered to stop the quarry.
The demands of permits for further quarries did not stop.

References:
AN-Nahar, Saturday, September 4, 1999 page 7: in Arabic: “The calm is not sure and the storm could come back”
Al-Anwar, Sunday, September 5, 1999 page 8: in Arabic: “Mazraat Abi-Saab to Nazarian: the quarries destroying the Cedars of Hadath-El-Jebbeh”
L’Orient-Le Jour, Monday, September 6, 1999 Page 4: in French: “Environnement: Nazarian se penche sur la situation Mazraat Bani-Saab”
TheDailyStar, Tuesday, September 7, 1999 page3: “Murr overrules officials to let quarry reopen”
Al-Safir, Wednesday, September 8, 1999 in Arabic: “A quarry working in a protected forest An-Nahar, Friday, September 10, 1999 page 1: in Arabic: “The teeth of quarries ate the cedars”
An-Nahar, Friday, September 10, 1999 page 7: in Arabic: “The calm was not long and the storm comes back”
TheDailyStar, Friday, September 10, 1999 page 3: Batroun quarry idle again, but for how long?
TheDailyStar, Friday, September 10, 1999 page 6: One step at a time
TheDailyStar, Friday, October 15, 1999: The sad story of the powerless minister
Al-Dyar, Tuesday, September 30, 1999 page 10: in Arabic: “Environment massacre at the quarry of Mazraat Abi-Saab”

The site is Eco-Tourist, But for How Long
To continue fighting It is not easy, we know that the demands of permission for further quarries could be supported by political pressures.
The fight continued, We worked to make this region declared eco-tourist (Tourism inside ecology), a first site of this kind in Lebanon, this will stop the road to further permissions of quarries.
We arrived to this aim, with the minister of tourism who declared the decision Number 634/1999 On November 26 1999.
After less than 3 months, the minister wants to change his decision, it was a political pressure behind those owners of the future quarries.
We acted rapidly through meetings with the Prime Minister Selim El-Hoss and than with the President of the republic.
But It was too late. The minister of tourism (who is also a minister of environment) took another decision this one eliminating the eco-tourist site. It was on February 12, 2000. This second decision was numbered 26.
Through the media we made political pressure again.
Finally we have no choice. We put a revision at the Council of State against the state, the ministry of tourism.
References:
An-Nahar, Thursday, December 30, 1999, Page 9: in Arabic: “Mazraat Bani Saab transformed into Tourist site”
An-Nahar, Saturday, February 12, 2000, Page 15: in Arabic: “Mazraat Bani Saab to (PI) El-Hoss for protection of the tourist ministerial decision”
An-Nahar, Monday, February 14, 2000, Page 15: in Arabic: “Opened letter to the President of the Republic to protect Mazraat Bani Saab”
Al-Safir, Wednesday, February 16, 2000, page 9: in Arabic: “Betwen 26/11/1999 and 12/2/2000 the tourist site flied..”
L’Orient-Le Jour, Saturday, February 26, 2000 Page 5: in French: “Menace sur les FORETS de Mazraat Bani Saab” (Danger attack at the Forest of Mazraat Bani-Saab)
L’Orient-Le Jour, Saturday, February 26, 2000 Page 5: in French: “De nombreux sites naturels et archEologiques” (Many natural and archeological sites)
L’Orient-Le Jour, Saturday, February 26, 2000 Page 5: in French: “Aucune carriEre ne serait “LEGALE” selon les habitants” (Any quarries is illegal)
Al-Dyar, Tuesday, Aprih 6, 2000 page 9: in Arabic: “The protected tourist site had been given up at Mazraat Abi-Saab and possible transformation into quarries”

Revision at The Council Of State

At the court, the Council Of State.
We made attention to the law and decrees: any forest of cedar trees is to be protecte`, this is an ecological patrimony of lebanon etc.. a revision was about of more than 50 pages deposited in the court.
We asked to stop the action of the last decision N 26 and getting back to the decision number 624 till the last decision of the Council.
Finally we got back our decision N 624, the eco-tourist is saved till the end of the court.
During the procedure, the owners of the lands put a demand on the council of state to be on the part of the ministry of tourism against us.
During the year 2001, the court is revising all the papers deposited. We are waiting for the final decision.
We are enjoying to have our site saved, but till when???

References:
Al-Mustaqbal, Monday, April 10, 2000, Page 8: in Arabic: “ Revision at the Council of state on the demand of Mazraat Bani Saab. It had been giving up its tourist value between a night and a twilight”
Al-Mustaqbal, Tuesday, June 13, 2000, Page 12: in Arabic: “Mazraat Abi-Saab got back its tourist value”
AN-Nahar, Tues`ay June 15, 2000, page 13: in Arabic: “The Council of State Stopped the action of the ministerial decision of tourism and turned Mazraat Abi Saab into its ecological site&aip;rdquo;
Al-Safir, Wednesday, June 21, 2000, page 9: in Arabic: “The Council of State give Mazraat Bani Saab its right”

The Cause is won
The cause is won in the Council of state and a Jurisprudence was obtained on February 12, 2002

Number 298/2002 (Jurisprudence)

Al-Mustaqbal, Saturday, February16, 2002, Page 20: in Arabic: “ Al-Mustaqbal was Next to the People to defend their environment. The Council of State got Mazraat Bani Saab back to its Touristic Value.”
Al-Dyar, Tuesday, February 18, 2002 page 10: in Arabic: “Mazraat Bani Saab Became Environmental Area..”
Al-Dyar, Tuesday, February 21, 2002 page 10: in Arabic: “Barhalyoun”

Conclusion:
This action is a first kind ever seen in the world of environmant, a fight getping through the court, a revision against the state inside the Council of State.
People in all over the world get this example as a lesson, it is a legal action against states who may destroy illegally the environment. The role of the media is important to support these actions.
We ask people who are concerned in the environment to act legally because by the law we can fight all destructive decisions.


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