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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
21 Apr 2019

Socotra Island has always been one of the most isolated and hard to reach places on Earth, but in the meantime has always captured the interest of the main political powers in the region. Now the island is part of Yemen, and suffers the indirect consequences of the war taking place on the continent since 2015. Socotra Island is situated 400 km away from the Arabian Peninsula and currently is closed for journalists. In order to get to the island I had to sail illegally on a small cargo ship and to introduce myself as anthropology researcher. On the island I found that there were two military bases of Saudi Arabia and that it was up to the Saudis to decide who comes and goes from the island. Surprisingly local people were very open and gladly spoke about the situation on the island. They believe that their story deserves to be told. All economical investments on the island come from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, thanks to their donations the hospital still functions; they support the function of the local fishing factory and other small businesses. For the past decades life on the island has changed dramatically. In 1967 Socotra became part of South Yemen and started adopting traditions and practices, coming from the continent. Religion became more and more important, leaving not much space for the myths and magic, once integral part of the locals’ belief system. People used to tell stories about jinns roaming the island, held witch trials and composed political poems in Socotri language. Now in school children don’t study Socotri, but only Arabian. . Socotri language is predating the Arabic language, but is on its way to be forgotten for the generations to come. There are fewer poets composing poems about politics and social causes. Tales of jinns are rarely spoken beside the fire. Also due to lack of control and support the island is facing a devastating environmental crisis. Socotra Island is home for 700 endemic species, found nowhere else on Earth. The bizarre, prehistoric looking Dragon Blood Tree grows only in the mountains of Socotra. Unfortunately the trees are dying and the reason is still unknown – it could be climate change or the overpopulation of goats, destroying the fragile ecosystem. Quarrels over land are very common among natives in Socotra, now that the people have foreseen the economical potential of this heavenly beautiful island. Socotri people are often selling their properties to foreign investors, mostly coming from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, for an amount of money only enough to by a second hand car. Salma, who inhabits a small stone cottage on Detwah Lagoon, was born in a cave nearby. She lived there with her whole family. The land belonged to them for decades, but they were about to lose it on trial in court. Salma spent 2 months in prison, protecting the land that belonged to her ancestors. Some locals think that because of the constant ongoing war and instability on the main land, probably it will be best for Socotra to separate from Yemen and seek either autonomy, either some alliance with the Emirates. Others spoke gladly of the president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi (current official president) and thought that Socotra must stay as it is – part of Yemen. In the meantime in the small shops on the island you can find only basic supplies as flour, rice, canned fish and beans etc. The currency is constantly fluctuating and devaluating. Locals can’t convert their savings to dollars or to any other currency, as the bank and exchange offices have banned it. People are not sure what the future will bring, but they feel relatively safe as at least there is no actual war happening on the island. They hope that eventually the war will be over and the island will be once again open, welcoming tourist and foreigners. There is no doubt that Socotra has vast potential. The only concerns are which country will actually take advantage of this natural beauty; what will be the outcome and the benefit for the native population; will they manage to preserve the fragile, endemic environment and the Socotri cultural heritage. Text: Rumyana Hristova, photography: Georgi Kozhuharov

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
17 Mar 2019

Socotra is facing a serious environmental crisis. Tones of trash and plastic are conquering the island and locals doesn't seem preoccupied. Due to the trash the water is contaminated and might cause serious diseases.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
15 Mar 2019

Thousands of goats roam freely around the island, including in the capital Hadibu. Life on Socotra is very basic, but people are happy, because they are safe - far away from the war taking place on the continent.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
15 Mar 2019

Locals wear the traditional Yemeni skirt for man. The elder still put a traditional knife on their belt, while the younger generation prefers a smart phone. There is no constant internet connection and when it does it is only enough for sending messages.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
13 Mar 2019

Socota island has its own spoken language which is predating the Arabic. On the island for centuries has existed the so called War of the Poets. Socotri poets dedicate their verses to politics. They use their talent to promote their views and believes and to gain supporters for certain cause. They challenge themselves to poetical battles.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
12 Mar 2019

A boy collects plastic bottles that he will use to store milk. For people who live far away from the city, plastic bottles are extremely valuable.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
10 Mar 2019

Salem (the man on the picture) was born around Dixam Plateau, high in the mountains. He used to live there with his family, but now had to move to the capital, looking for better opportunities. He works as a supervisor in the fish factory. He often visits his parents, wife and four children. His home is near the Dragon Blood Tree forest, so he learned how to collect its precious resin when he was little.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
10 Mar 2019

Old Bedouin pose for a picture next to the fire in his house in the Dragon Blood Tree forest. Many people migrate towards the city and the villages along the coast, some still leave high in the mountain, taking care for their goats and leaving as their ancestors once did.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
10 Mar 2019

Dragon Blood Trees are one of the 700 endemic species found on the island. They are slowly dying and the reason is still unknown. Since the war started in 2015 all environmental programs on the island stopped. Some researchers suppose that the trees are disappearing due to the climate change, others say that it might be because of the over population of goats which destroyed the fragile ecosystem. There are no young trees in the wild.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
10 Mar 2019

Fishing is the main income for the natives on Socotra. Each morning they go to an improvised fishing market, around an abandoned building in the capital Hadibu.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
10 Mar 2019

Bottle trees. Locals called these trees “useless trees”.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Salem (the man on the picture) wanted to study in Europe, but then the War started. He thinks that being part of Yemen is no good for Socotra, as the conflicts never stop. He dreams for peace, no matter who will bring it.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Tank located on the beach left from the Soviet occupation of the island in the past.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Mohammed (the man on the picture) still lives in a cave that belonged to his family for centuries. He is a fisherman. He had sent his little son to study in the village nearby, but he feels to attached to his cave. He tells stories about his meetings with jinns. who he thinks still roam around the island.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Decades ago people on the island were so starved that they didn't have strength to bury the people who died. They just dragged the bodies to a small cave, leaving them there. Still the islanders rely mainly on fishing and imported rice.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Salma (the woman on the picture) was born in a cave near the Detwah Laggon on Socotra. Her family lived in a cave for decades. Now she owns the land and a small house made of stones. She spent 2 months in jail, protecting her land from neighbors who wanted to took it from her. Salma thinks that the Yemeni government is weak and allows for it to run from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Because of the foreign influence, the culture and traditions of Socotra will soon disappear.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Boys are selling fish on the beach. Some children quit school to become fishermen and start earning money for their families.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
09 Mar 2019

Pupils during a class which they study Islam. Sokotri language is not into the school program.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
08 Mar 2019

Khat market in Hadibu. Khat comes by ship every two weeks.

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Socotra - The Invisible Island
Socotra Island
By Georgi Kozhuharov
05 Mar 2019

Cargo Ship from Oman to Socotra Island. Indian sailor on a night watch. Twelve Indians work on the small wooden ship, caring cement. They work for around 150$ a month. They don't have cabins, but instead sleep under the stars, along with hundreds of cockroaches and rats.

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A Biodiversity Odyssey
montreal
By Conteur d'images
05 Sep 2015

To celebrate the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020, an environmentalist and a photojournalist visited 10 countries in 300 days in order to discover the most innovative solutions implemented by the peoples of the world to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. A fabulous educational journey through the Amazon, the Arabian desert, the Andes, the Pacific Ocean and more!

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Controversial Dam Project Threatens P...
Nahr Ibrahim
By Suzanne Baaklini
09 Feb 2015

Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon
Febraury 9, 2015

The construction of a dam in the area of Janna, Lebanon, is causing wide controversy among local residents, ecologists and even certain politicians.
Janna, whose name means ‘paradise’ in Arabic, is a picturesque valley near Ibrahim River in north Lebanon, which hosts a rare ecosystem according to ecologists. Concerned Lebanese fear that this project will ruin the natural site without succeeding in retaining water. Geologist Samir Zaatiti warns that the surface on which the dam is being built covers large pits that absorb water.
There are also fears that the project might threaten the water source that feeds the Jeita Grotto, a submerged cave known as a tourist destination.
Preparations for the construction have started and many trees in the areas have been cleared.
Despite its rich water resources, Lebanon has struggled with a water distribution crisis due to the lack of adequate infrastructure.

TRANSCRIPT

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Dr. Samir Zaatiti, Hydrologist:
04:57 – 14:04

“While conducting a geological probe, huge amounts of unground water were discovered, almost 300 meters deep. Water rose from the depth of 300 meters to 170 meters. It is compressed and has a good quality. It f lies directly below the dam. Instead of building a dam, you can dig wells. The nearby villages have many wells and they exploit underground water. Janna dam and the other small dams are located in high mountain areas. Rocks in those areas are made of carbonates; they form what we call karst, or karst containers. It is a type of fractured rocks that melt in the rain and cause caves. Karsts, as a geological structure, do not allow building dams in those areas. This is in addition to the fact that these areas are small and elevated. Nature is convenient for building dams in the Beqaa, on the Assi and Litani rivers, and on the Wazzani River in the south because the ground is impermeable and does not allow vertical leakage into the ground. An example of vertical leakage is in Brisa dam [in North Lebanon]. It is built on a karst and underneath there are pits under the surface, which is normal when the surface is made of limestone. In Brisa, water leaked into the ground and the concrete that was added concrete also collapsed. Now the dam is completely dry, even in this winter with all the rain that has fallen. The dam took 12 years to be built and it did not hold a single drop of water. We have a live example and Janna dam will be the same.
My professor Michel Bakrovich, the president of the French Hydrologist Association, AHF, believes that this dam will be a sieve. He said that it will be dangerous. We are raising our voice, saying this dam will not fulfil its purpose.
The amount of water we have in Lebanon was surveyed, and the result was that we have about 10 billion [cubic meters] that comes from rainfall and snow. We only have 1.3 billion [cubic meters] of surface water, including all the springs and all the surface water that we see.
The volume of underground water, which leaks through karsts to form a renewable water reserve, is estimated at about 3 billion [cubic meters]. If we do not use this water, it will go to the sea, to our neighbours in the north and our neighbours in the south.

08:09
Almost one quarter of [Lebanon’s water reserves] is above the surface and three quarters of it is underground. What is happening is that projects are targeting one quarter of the water reserves, under the claim that it will protect the remaining three quarters from pollution and salinization. In an area in Byblos, when a well was dug, water became a bit salty because it was close to the sea.
It was decided that all of Lebanon’s water is underground water, without knowing which reservoirs or areas are being discussed.
They realized that Ibrahim River, where Janna dam is located, and the Roweisat spring and Afqa spring feed the Jeita grotto which, along with Ashoosh spring, provides about 80 to 90 % of Beirut’s water supplies. Those studies are documented, but they were not mentioned. The problem of the BGR [the association that conducted the study] is that in Lebanon the financial officer is also the technical officer; there is a lot of pressure in Lebanon [to appoint certain officials]. They wrote about this matter, but only in a presentation in Morocco where they were under the supervision of the International Hydrologists Association. A Lebanese center for studies claims that what the AIH were saying is not true, this center does not even have a single geologist or hydrologist. They should not insult the intelligence of Lebanese people. At the end of the day, it is science what solves our problems, not empty claims. Those people worked since 2012 and gave us their data.
There is a risk of earthquakes under the dam, and because of the Karst and the nature of the surface in the area; there are many caves which causes water leakage. An experiment was conducted on the Roweisat and Afqa springs, which together form Ibrahim river. Water was measured when it entered the Jurassic Karst; its volume was one cubic meter, they measured it after it exited the Jurassic karst area and it was 0.7 cubic meter, so 0.3 cubic meter of water went into the ground. They made maps and took photos of what happened.
If they build the dam, it will not hold water. You have to work with nature to be able to get what you need. Even if they placed a layer of clay on the leaking area, as was done in Brisa, the clay layer will bend down where there is vacancy, and the pressure on water on the twisted area will cause a leakage. There is a probability that this might happen in Janna, and treating karst is very difficult and costs a lot of money. So why insist on building the dam in this area? It will not succeed. If we have a river flowing over a crack in the surface, the probability of leakage is 30%. However, if you raise the level of water running over the crack, it will raise the level of water leakage. BGR have estimated the rate of leakage to be 52%; almost half of the water in the dam will go to waste. And also, they talk about a dam that holds 39 million cubic meters. We want to know, are these 39 million cubic meters before the evaporation takes place or after? The level of evaporation in that area is 50% or 48% to be exact. All of those studies are mentioned in the United Nations report, which they claim is old because it dates from 1970, but the geological nature of an area does not change quickly. It takes millions of years to change. There is a large amount of neglected data, and many claims that are not based on scientific facts. The biggest scandal is Brisa dam; it took 12 years of work, cost millions of dollars, yet farmers are still waiting for water. At the end, not a single drop of water was held by the dam.
If the Janna dam is built, the artificial lake it will not fill entirely. If it does contain some water, it will barely be enough for the surrounding areas. Damour dam and the other existing dams are working in a way that is completely the opposite of what was mentioned in the United Nations report in 1970, they said that we can store water on the surface but only in specific areas, in Assi, Litani and Wazzani. These dams can hold a maximum of 500 million cubic meters."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, man), Jean Abi Akar, Local Resident
14:05 – 14:41

"We have lived in this area since 1820. Our grandparents’ bones are here, as well as their sweat and blood. Nobody was able to preserve this land. The monks were not able to preserve this and did not allow us to preserve it either. We were displaced gradually and promised to be given a substitute a land as a replacement, but nobody cares about us. We still have a small piece of land left. However, all of our relatives and our cousins left. My brothers and I are the only ones who remained here. They took half of our land, but in general, they forced everyone to leave."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Raja Noujaim, Archaeologist and member of the Association to Protect Lebanon’s Heritage
14:41 – 20:45

"This project has been a violation since the start. The Ministry of Energy started the work based on incomplete studies, which are still incomplete until this day. We are working today, or, in fact, they are working today based on conditional studies. Today, the Ministry of Energy is working while the studies have not been finished. There are studies that should be done, aside from the studying the environmental impact of the project. They should have been done before signing the decree. Now they have a problem that they are trying to hide. The Ministry of Environment started to seriously demand them [the Ministry of Energy] to stop the work and provide the required documents. Then it suddenly started supporting them. The Minister of Environment went on television and said that he is cooperating with them, while on the other hand he writes reports saying that there are about 10 or 15 missing studies, especially hydrological studies, which is impossible for them to provide. So, simply, the work is illegal, but when there is nobody from the government concerned enough to implement the laws, what is illegal becomes legal. This is our situation and our objection does not only come from the fact that we are environmentalists, but also Lebanese citizens. What we are saying is that nobody should start a project without finishing the required studies; you cannot do your experiments on the ground, especially in an important location such as this. But apparently nobody cares. Land acquisition should not start either, because owning the land is the beginning of executing the project. It should not start until the studies are finished and the assessment of the environmental impact is finished and approved. What they are saying now, they hired people to do the environmental impact assessment, but that is not the issue, this should be agreed on, and they will never get the agreement. This project is very clear, we have done our own studies in this time and our studies are very clear, the dam will not retain water, because simply, the surface on which the dam will be built cannot hold water. The need for water can be fulfilled with a minimal cost and in a more efficient way. Khatib and Alami company have dug many wells, they call them ‘study wells.’ There is a well in Qartaba and another in Lassa, and one more in Serayta. These wells alone can fulfil the need for water for all of Byblos. They can provide 4 to 5 million cubic meters; this is the alternative solution. However, they are not interested in doing small projects like these. They want to do big projects, and of course, here we can see the corruption.
We are going to continue what we are doing; we have the legal path, which we are taking. If they want to continue to disrespect the law, there is going to be a problem. The Ministry of Agriculture has forced them to stop cutting trees until the environmental assessment is over and approved. However, we have another problem which you have witnessed on al-Mashnaqa road. While I am coming to this area through al-Mashnaqa road, I counted over 10,000 cut trees, they will cut over 40,000-50,000 trees from al-Mashnaqa road without permission. They are expanding the road in order to transport building equipment, which will be used when they start the construction. They act as if they do not care about permissions, I do not know where this problem can take us.
Work is still ongoing. Cutting trees has stopped here, but it is continuing over on al-Mashnaqa road. It was said that al-Mashnaqa road is an old project. It does not matter if it is old or new; they need the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, and we are going to do all we can to guarantee they will not get that approval. This is enough. If one assesses the environmental impact of all this deforestation...
Until now, they received an approval to cut down 51,000 trees. If I look at these mountains and valley, I will see that these 51,000 trees have already been cut. They cannot keep going.
But the truth is there are over 300,000 trees and shrubs which will be cut in this area. I dare any expert to come and say that this operation does not have a negative influence. I dare any expert to say that this dam is being built to serve agriculture. The climate is going to change, let alone the ecosystem that is going to be influenced. We cannot speak only of the number of trees; we have to deal with this area as an entire system.
We are dealing with corrupt, ignorant people who claim to be scientists.
They also have hidden reports. They did not disclose all the reports, and I am certain that the ministry of energy does not have access to all the reports.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Joelle Barakat, Activist at the Association for the Protection of Jabal Moussa

20:46 – 23:24
The inhabitants of the area do not know exactly the heritage and environmental value attached to this valley. What is certain is that they all appreciate it and are proud to have it, they all swim in the water of this valley, drink it and use it for irrigation.
Many inhabitants of the area are farmers, so this river is vital for them. This dam is being constructed without taking into consideration that villages situated after the dam need the water they are receiving from Ibrahim River. There will be leakage due to the nature of the surface on which the dam is being built. To avoid the leakage, they will have to build a concrete surface, which will cause springs in the area and [Ibrahim] to dry. The river will lose its aesthetic value.
They already started to ruin the scene, as you can see behind us. This valley used to be a touristic destination for Lebanese people who used to go out on picnics. However, since they started blasting rocks and cutting trees down, tourists will no longer come here.
The water coming from the springs is drinking water, and some of it is used for irrigation. If they build the dam, the water that will be stored will not be destined to be used by the local inhabitants. It is not drinking water. It will be transferred to Beirut, after it passes through Dbayeh to be purified, and after the purifying process, it will not return to the local users. We have the impression that there is a cycle; water will be stored where it should not be, it will be taken to Dbayeh where it will cost money [to be purified]. In this whole operation, the local inhabitants are the only people who are suffering.
They are suffering because their natural environment will be ruined, they will no longer benefit from the valley it is a touristic site. Their oxygen will be depleted, the water they use is going to dry up. All of that is being done so that water which is not clean can reach Beirut; water that needs to be purified. On the other hand, there are many alternatives to this dam. These alternatives can provide water without harming the nature and the local inhabitants so much.
As members of the association to protect Jabal Moussa, we know that the value of this site comes from the valley. We are going to do all we can to stop the building of this dam. If they build this dam we are going to lose the valley, Jabal Moussa and the value of this entire area.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Jean Gebran, Ministry of Energy and Water Consultant
23:25 – 28:45
This is one of them most important dams in Lebanon and the region. This dam, which will be located in the Ibrahim River valley, will store 38 million cubic meters of water. Throughout the year, 250 million cubic meters of water pass through the valley. This dam will not have an environmental impact on the valley. Out of the 38 million cubic meters, 10 million cubic meters will be reserved for the area around Byblos. The remaining 28 million cubic meters will be reserved for the area of Metn and Greater Beirut. It will have a capacity to produce hydroelectric power that ranges from 100 to 140 megawatts. In Byblos, by the year 2050, they will need a maximum of 30 megawatts. The remaining amount of electric energy will cover the needs of the entire area.
The preliminary studies effectively started in 2009 but it was listed in the ten-year plan for dam building in 2000. In 2000, only the Shabrouh dam was executed. In 2009, the [Janna] dam was considered for study again. Studies about the environmental impact and other studies were conducted by a foreign firm, Segoria, in association with Khatib and Alami firm.
In 2012, a [new] code for environmental impact was issued, but the studies about the dam had already been conducted. There was study on how to improve the environmental impact according to the new code, which includes 17 new articles.
A committee from the Ministry of Environment was formed, as well as a committee from the Ministry of Energy and Water and the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Company. We examined all of these points and reached conclusions about 14 of them. The remaining articles require time to be studied. A new firm has been contracted to assess them. There will be concrete details about this in the next four or six months.
We know that water is very important in Lebanon and is the source of life. If this dam is built, it will improve the environment. As a worldwide concept, water improves the environment. It allows trees to grow and attract birds. Water causes the necessary humidity for… there is no [negative] environmental impact. I would like to clarify the fact that about a quarter of the Ibrahim River valley will be used. It is a very large valley. We will lose 290 million cubic meters is there was not a dam there. We will hold 38 million cubic meters as a constant reserve. This is why the environmental impact that is being talked about is exaggerated.
Regarding water leakage, to be honest with people, studies were concluded in 2012. There is no leakage. A German firm, BGR, says that there is leakage in Jeita. We commissioned a third party, a new firm, which conducted another study and confirmed that there are no leakages.

Interviewer: I would like to interrupt you. I never knew that another firm concluded that there is no leakage.

Jean Gebran: I can give you the reports, which come with some remarks. To make it simpler for the people, wells were dug above the river. Colored substances were poured into the wells. There should be leakage where the coulored substance reappears. After a month, it did not reappear in Jeita; it appeared in the river. This is the simplest explanation we can give to people. Major studies have shown that there is no leakage. In case there was a leakage, it could be remedied, which is mentioned in the study.
A member of the parliament once said that 100,000 trees were cleared to build the Beirut Airport. They were removed to build the airport. There are certain things in life that have a [high] price but in return for which you will get something. What [is the worth of] 53,000 trees? To clear some technical aspects, the number of trees that will be removed is not 53,000 trees. They estimate the number of trees according to the surface of the area that is being acquired, which is surveyed using Google [Earth]. They estimated the number of trees to be 53,000.
We are acquiring land that is 50 meters above the level of the dam. In a 50-meter perimeter around the dam trees will not be cleared. The number of trees that will be cleared is less than 53,000. It is around 35,000 or 40,000 trees. These trees are only shrubs. They are not are large trees. They are not pine trees, or other trees that we need.
The dam will make the valley more beautiful. It will attract birds and allow new types of trees to exist in the valley. The relation between man, nature and water will be organized. This is what life is all about. If you look at the negative aspect of the project, it will look negative. If look at its positive aspect, it will look positive.
Those who speak about the environment only concentrate on the environment. It is an illusion for people. We will certainly pay a price by removing trees and that the valley will be closed at certain locations, but water will be flowing and it will continue to feed Ibrahim River. The river will not be affected."

Frame 0004
Controversial Dam Project Threatens P...
Nahr Ibrahim
By Suzanne Baaklini
08 Feb 2015

Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon
Febraury 9, 2015

The construction of a dam in the area of Janna, Lebanon, is causing wide controversy among local residents, ecologists and even certain politicians.
Janna, whose name means ‘paradise’ in Arabic, is a picturesque valley near Ibrahim River in north Lebanon, which hosts a rare ecosystem according to ecologists. Concerned Lebanese fear that this project will ruin the natural site without succeeding in retaining water. Geologist Samir Zaatiti warns that the surface on which the dam is being built covers large pits that absorb water.
There are also fears that the project might threaten the water source that feeds the Jeita Grotto, a submerged cave known as a tourist destination.
Preparations for the construction have started and many trees in the areas have been cleared.
Despite its rich water resources, Lebanon has struggled with a water distribution crisis due to the lack of adequate infrastructure.

The full version of the story is available here: https://www.transterramedia.com/media/56852

TRANSCRIPT

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Dr. Samir Zaatiti, Hydrologist:
0:17- 0:33
“My professor Michel Bakrovich, the president of the French Hydrologists Association, AHF, believes that this dam will be a like a sieve. He said that it will be dangerous. There is a high risk that earthquakes could occur under the dam.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Jean Abi Akar, Local Resident
00:42 – 00:57
“We have lived in this area since 1820. Our grandparents and fathers’ bones are here, as well as their sweat and blood. Nobody was able to preserve this land. The monks were not able to preserve this land and did not allow us to preserve it either. We were gradually displaced.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Raja Noujaim, Archaeologist and member of the Association to Protect Lebanon’s Heritage
00:58 – 01:33
“The study we have conducted is very clear; this dam will not retain water because the surface at its bottom does not allow it. There are wells that can cover the need for water in the entire Byblos area. However, they [the government] are not interested in doing small projects like these. They want to do big projects to boast about them. Of course, corruption is involved. “More than 300,000 trees and shrubs in this area will be cut down. I dare any expert to come and say that this operation does not have a negative influence. I dare any expert to say that this dam is being built to serve agriculture.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Joelle Barakat, Activist at the Association for the Protection of Jabal Moussa

01:48 – 02:12
“Many inhabitants of the area are farmers, so this river is vital for them. The local inhabitants are the only people who will suffer because of this project. Their natural environment will be ruined; they will no longer benefit from the valley as a touristic site. All of this is being done so that water which is not clean can reach Beirut; water that needs to be purified.”

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Tree Planting in Western Canada
Alberta, Canada
By Luc Forsyth
19 Aug 2014

Tree planters sleep on the ground, work in the rain and snow, battle swarms of insects, and bend over thousands of times a day – all in the pursuit of money. Tree planting is part adventure and part iconic right of passage. The ultimate goal is to earn as much as possible before the season ends. While some “rookie” planters might struggle to earn enough to cover their expenses, a motivated and experienced planter can expect to earn upwards of $300 every day. The very best earn even more still. Many tree planters return to this job year after year in pursuit of a large payout, whether for tuition, travel, or investment.

Carrying all their equipment on their backs, and heavy loads of tree seedings makes tree planting a physically exhausting experience. In a national study, it was determined that a tree planter can burn up to 8000 calories in a single day of work.

Known nationally as one of the hardest jobs a young person can do, this story follows a camp of 42 tree planters over a difficult four month season in northern Alberta.

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The Greek return to the land
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

"Reverse mobility", says Kasimis Charalambos, specialist of the Greek rural world, when asked about the current movement of "return to the land" that turns thousands of Greek city-dwellers into farmers or olive producers. Since the end of the civil war in 1949, the Greek rural world experienced an exodus and Athens, a once 200.000 inhabitant's city, now gathers almost half of the 11,23 million's national population. "A tool of resilience against the crisis", adds Karina Benessaiah, who writes a Phd on the issue. Indeed, since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, more than 600 000 jobs were destroyed in the country, mainly in Athens, where unemployment, combined with increased taxes and raising daily costs, turned life into a never-ending nightmare. Suicide rate have dangerously increased and the Neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, whose members are whether in jail or in trial, is the third party of the capital, since the municipal elections that were held in May. "I want to leave the city to be free and human again", endeavors Giorgia, unemployed for 2 years, from a piece of land located in Nea Makri and owned by the collective Nea Guinea, which provides trainings to city-dwellers eager to live a sustainable and self-managed life. "This field, at a one-hour-distance from Athens, is a bridge between Athenians and the rural world, a laboratory to succeed in the hard process of going back to working and living of the land", explains Fotini, founder of Nea Guinea, who will move in Nea Makri for good in September. For Dimitris and Penelope, Athens is already an old souvenir. They swapped their urban lifestyle in the beginning of the crisis for the tough adventure of the rural world in Pelion, at five-hours-distance from Athens. In spite of many sacrifices and efforts, they are happy to live among olives, apple trees, homeopathic plants and wild pigs. For them, more than an economic opportunity, returning to the land was also a way to live a more sustainable life and to take their distance with the Greek political system that they find illegitimate. Agriculture may be a tool of resilience, but it will not be enough to solve the economic crisis, in a country where more than half of the youth is unemployed.

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The Greek return to the land 01
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

Dimitris, 32, spent his youth fighting against Greek police in the streets of Exarchia, Athens’ anarchist neighborhood. When the 16-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was killed by an armed policeman in 2008, the whole city became inflamed. “For two month, I didn’t sleep; Athens looked like under a civil war. But I was mature enough to come here and start my life again. First I felt guilty towards my friends, but now I know that I took the right decision”, says the apple and olive producer in his field of apple trees in Pelion, a natural paradise in the north of Athens.

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The Greek return to the land 03
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

“The movement of return to the land is possible because of the late urbanization of Greece”, underlines Kasimis Charalambos, from his desk of researcher in the University of agriculture of Athens. “Almost every Greek has kept a piece of land in his village of origin”, he adds. Dimitris lives in the house built by his grand-father and works the field that the latter bought decades ago. In spite of this support, it is only now, after five years of continuous efforts, that he sees the end of the tunnel: “This winter will be decisive; my production will be certified ecologic, I will be able to raise the price. Until now, between the price of tools, the rent of the new lands I bought and the salary of the workers, I did not earn anything. Still, I work between 12 to 16 hours every day during the winter!”

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The Greek return to the land 04
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

In the midst of an economic crisis in which Greece lost more than 600.000 jobs, 40.000 agriculture jobs were created between 2009 and 2011! “The rural world resists better than other sectors of the Greek economy. It progressively turns into a refuge and a laboratory of ideas for many city-dwellers, who head for it, by necessity or choice”, claims Kasimis Charalambos. Every choice comes with sacrifices. Dimitris knows it all too well: “The first thing you lose by leaving the city are your social relations. I broke up with my girlfriend because of the distance. Here, you need to be stable not to go mad after two months!” he warns. "Still, whenever a client tells me that my olives are the best he ever tasted, all my efforts are rewarded!"

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The Greek return to the land 05
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

Penelope is able to recognize a handle of 'hypericum' in the middle of the bush of Pelion, to name any plant and flower of the forest in latin and to prepare a cream with it, that will enhance its homeopathic virtues. Still, this radiant 40-years-old Greek lived in Athens most of her life. Five years ago, she decided to replace her urban life for a more natural one. After the death of her father, she sold his flat and bought a piece of land in the middle of the forest of Pelion. To reach the first village, Neochori, she needs to drive for 15 minutes on a stony road, with an old and undeclared Citroën. For her, Pelion is the place "where dreams come true."

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The Greek return to the land 06
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

"Hypericum is great to appease stings or wounds", she explains, fliting around the bushes, her wicker basket in hand. "I learned a lot about homeopathic plants with my mother, who is from Crete. It is a tradition there. But since I live here, I had the opportunity to really deepen and experiment this savoir-faire", she says. "The return to the land is a return to the tradition, as well as a post-modern phenomena", confirms Kasimis Charalambos.

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The Greek return to the land 08
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

Back in her house, Penelope picks some Malva, let her chicken out from his house, in the back of the garden. A big dog is at the entrance, "vital to chase wild pigs", she precises. "For one year, we lived here with a friend without water and electricity. Now things are easier. But my friends are still scared to visit, because they are scared of loosing the confort of the city. Still, when I go back to Athens, every body tells me how he envies me and which he could do it. So why don't they do it?!"

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The Greek return to the land 09
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

"The return to the land is positive in the short term; life is easier and cheaper in the province than in Athens, and cultivating the land is a proactive way to react to the loss of a job or the closure of a company. But on the long term, it is not clear yet if people will manage to earn a living with that", confesses Karina Benessaiah. Penelope does not look for benefits. For her, the return to the land must go with a renewed economic system. "I swap my creams and oils against services with the local community. And I sell my fruits and vegetables in an independant market in Volos, the nearest big city, that was created by an anarchist squat for ecological producers. But here, I don't need a lot to live."

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The Greek return to the land 10
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

"We were cultivating our own vegetables for a few years on the roof of our building. But last year, Yannis and I followed the training of Nea Guinea on plants and herbs. Click! We began to really think about changing our way of life and going back to the rural world", explains Giorgia, while snatching the weeds of a piece of land in Nea Makri, a small village one hour distant from Athens. Every sunday since one year, Giorgia, Yannis, Maria and Ana, who all met during Nea Guinea's trainings, were able to come here and put into practice their lessons. "Before that, we would do any old thing. Now we have a clear idea of what would imply living from the land", says the Greek woman, enthusiastic.

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The Greek return to the land 11
Pelion
By Emmanuel Haddad
09 Jun 2014

For 20 years, Giorgia worked as a secretary in a law office. Unemployed for two years, she only finds offers to work for 400€/month, 6 days on 7. "As an unemployed, I even have to pay charges to the State, and I don't receive anything. We feel like thieves, as if we would have to pay back something we robbed. But the only who robbed were the banks!", she denounces. Recently, the Greek vice-minister of Justice brought in a bill proposing to lock up until one year in jail any citizen who would not be able to pay a debt over 5000 euros to the Greek State after 4 months. "Nea Guinea is our way to do the revolution against the system of austerity and neoliberalism. But instead of fighting against police like the anarchists, we do concrete and everyday actions. From housing to energy, health to food, we propose to the Athenians an alternative, sustainable and self-managed way to live, without having debts to pay to a State that we don't trust anymore", abounds Fotini.

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Germany's Black Gold Threatens Villages
Brandenburg
By Isabell Zipfel
03 Jun 2014

Despite Germany’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation, the country has been quietly ramping up its production of brown coal in recent years. As mining companies buy up land and dig vast open-pit mines, natural areas are being desecrated and inhabitants of nearby villages are being forced from their homes. Now, residents in nine villages in the eastern state of Brandenburg fear for the future of their homes, as the very land their houses are built on is being bought-up by Swedish mining company Vattenfall.

Brown coal is considered by many to be the black gold of the 21st century. After oil, coal is the world’s most important energy source, which makes mining it a highly lucrative business. Germany is the biggest brown coal producer in world, far ahead of China and the United States. In 2013, they produced over 162 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from brown coal. Currently, Germany’s coal production is at a 25-year high and shows no sign of slowing down. Some coal industry experts are even calling the recent surge in production a “brown coal renaissance”.

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A village’s struggle to preserve its ...
Long La
By Corentin Fohlen
28 Mar 2014

Forests are the heart of Long La's development. In a country ravaged by deforestation, this village of 500 inhabitants has become a model of sustainable development. With the help of Speri, a vietnamese NGO, Long La has found a way to preserve its forest thanks to agroecology.

The forest is rich in medicinal plants and rare species and generates wealth for the community. Prior to 2004, it was threatened by timber exploitation. But its inhabitants soon realized that the water shortages they were facing were not normal and that the air was drier than it should have been in this tropical region.

It did not take long before they began to blame deforestation, which also adversely affects agricultural production. Today, forests cover 40% of the territory of Laos, whereas they made up 70% in the 1950s. In order to protect their forest, villagers in Long La reserved certain areas for the production of timber and others for medicinal plants. In some areas, it is now strictly forbidden to gather wood. They also enacted strict rules to preserve the forest, such as keeping farm animals in paddocks to prevent them from damaging trees.

In 2005, the Laotian government recognized Long La inhabitants' know-how and put them in charge of managing the village's forest. Doing so came naturally to the inhabitants since they all belong to the Hmong community, an animist ethnic group that considers the forest sacred. In Long La, the forest is even believed to host a venerated spirit: the Patongxenh.

Deforestation is being driven by corruption as well as poorly managed industrial-scale plantations for things like rubber. Yet Long La's management of the forest has proven that preservation can lead to development and wealth. Thanks to the forest, the village now cultivates Zong Zwa, a plant with bright yellow flowers that tastes similar to rocca. The village also produces 12 tons of organic vegetables each year which they sell to hotels and restaurants in Luang Prabang. Speri now works with 12 other villages to implement Long La's model. In 2012, the NGO and the villagers created a rural school to train local residents in agroecology.

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Tin Fever in Indonesia 33
By Steven Wassenaar
17 Mar 2014

Fondy (51 years) is a contracter working for PT Timah, his mine produces 60 tons of tin a month. He hopes to be able to produce 80-100 tons next year. The Pemali mine, the biggest legal mine in Bangka that has completely devastated the once green landscape. Operated by PT-Timah, it produces 60 tons of tin per month. Bangka Island (Indonesia) is devastated by illegal tin mines. The demand for tin has increased due to its use in smart phones and tablets.

Fondy (51 ans) est un sous-traitant, travaillant pour PT Timah, sa mine produit 60 tonnes d'étain par mois, il espère atteindre 80-100 tonnes l'année prochaine. Mine de Pemali, plus grande mine légale de Bangka. Exploité par PT-Timah. Elle produit 60 tonnes d'étain par mois. L'île de Bangka (Indonésie) est dévastée par des mines d'étain. La demande de l'étain a explosé à cause de son utilisation dans les smartphones et tablettes.