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Jal al-Dib residents reiterate demand for substitute bridge

Jal al-Dib residents reiterate demand for substitute bridge

 April 10, 2012 10:51 AM The Daily Star
This file picture shows motorists driving around the Jal al-Dib bridge, east of Beirut, ahead of its dismantling. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
BEIRUT: Residents of Jal al-Dib protested Tuesday for the second week in a row over their demands for the construction of a replacement for the recently dismantled bridge, blocking the main coastal highway leading to and from Beirut.

“We protested last Tuesday and called for an entry and exit point for the Metn from Jal al-Dib but we didn’t hear anything but [empty] promises. Today our movement will not carry out escalatory action, set up tents or close completely the highway,” the protesters said in a statement.

The demonstrators, who blocked the main highway on both sides from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., maintained that by refraining from escalating their actions they were not departing from a decision to hold weekly protests every Tuesday but that they wanted to give officials one final chance.

If their demand is not met, they will hold a mass demonstration on May 8 calling for “a final decision on introducing an appropriate exit and entry system to the Metn from Jal al-Dib and that it be situated on the highway immediately, with clear deadlines determined before the month’s end.”

Tens of people gathered last Tuesday at the site where the Jal al-Dib bridge once stood, protesting the lack of an alternative to the bridge which they say was a vital route for Metn residents.

Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel said Thursday that a new bridge would be constructed in line with a Cabinet decision to replace the Jal al-Dib bridge, but that the process would take time.

Over the weekend, Moqbel, following a meeting with Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel, stressed that the government had made a “clear and final decision to establish a bridge in Jal al-Dib and that it has tasked the Council for Development and Reconstruction with putting forward the final blueprints within a period of 15 days and presenting these to local authorities to arrive at a final agreement that will then be raised by the Cabinet.”

He also called on the residents not to renew their protest “because the matter has been resolved.”

However, Moqbel would not specify a deadline for the start of the construction of the bridge.

The Jal al-Dib bridge was dismantled earlier this year following warnings by various officials that it was at severe risk of collapse.

The bridge connected Jal al-Dib to the main Beirut highway which runs through the country vertically.

As with last week’s demonstration, heavy traffic ensued on both sides of the highway, which already witnesses early morning congestion.

Lawmakers also headed to the protest site to voice their support for the movement.

“[Metn] MPs Sami Gemayel and Michel Murr are dealing with this subject separately and we will have to wait and see whether we can agree to work together on this issue,” said Metn MP Salim Salhab, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

MP Ibrahim Kanaan, another Metn lawmaker in the FPM, said the decision by the Cabinet needed to be implemented and “I will bring this matter up in Parliament and will follow it up until the end even it comes to the point where we have to call for a vote of confidence.”

“The north Metn has been deprived for 20 years and has not had its rights, whether in terms of bridges, hospitals, roads or schools, and we won’t accept that this continue; the government must carry out its decisions not through promises, visits and meetings alone.”

Eddy Abi Lamaa, a representative of the Lebanese Forces, said a new and clear plan needed to be introduced for a replacement bridge, stressing that Jal al-Dib needed to have entry and exit points.

For his part, Change and Reform bloc MP Ghassan Moukheiber said he supported the call by residents for a replacement bridge, adding that “the traffic crisis will not be resolved except by studying the issue of public transportation.”

The protesters vowed, as they had last week, to carry on with their weekly Tuesday protests until the matter was resolved.

The highway was reopened 9 a.m. and normal traffic resumed shortly therafter.



Lebanon - Mount Lebanon , Others

Date: 4/10/2012 4:18:03 PM

By: YASA WEB , The Daily Star
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