As described in previous sections, the Project's Construction phase involves as sequence of extensive heavy earth-moving activities including mainly site clearance, grading, grounding as well as mining operations (drilling/ blasting) and tunneling works so as to build the Project's land-based surface structures and underground linear facilities.
Similar to the Assessment Area's existing environmental receptors (soil, landscape and visual environment among others), Project-related environmental impacts on biodiversity, specifically on the floral cover, are anticipated during Construction principally due to site clearing and excavation activities while no major adverse impacts are anticipated during Operation given the automated nature of most components of the Project and the type of the proposed development.
During Construction, the potential negative impacts are listed in the following Table 7 -60.
Table 7 60 Potential Negative Impacts on Biodiversity
Soil contamination due to disposal of oils and waste material
In reference to the baseline ecological conditions, a series of site visits was carried out to document the overall potentially affected ecosystems (if any anticipated) by the Project and to assess the status of the existing floral biodiversity at the different planned construction sites:
The planned construction sites fall within the Inferior Mediterranean or Thermomediterranean zones on a calcareous soil in the Carob- Mastic series (for the majority of the sites), the Quercus calliprinos Webb. series (Nahr Damour Siphon/Washout) and Pinus brutia Tenseries for the Khalde Flow measurement and tunnel chamber.
The trees formation in the majority of the sites (Carob- Mastic series) take the form of garigues composed mainly by Pistacia lentiscus L., Myrtus communis L., and less frequently by Ceratonia siliqua L. This series is sometimes presented by Pinus halepensis Mill. and Pinus brutia Ten.
The first degradation stage of this series is composed by tall garigues dominated by Calicotome villosa (Vahl) Link and in localized areas Rhus tripartita (Ucria) D.C. In areas that are more degraded, garigues of Poterium spinosum L. and Phlomis viscosa Poir. are present in rocky places.
Generally, the different planned construction sites do not affect any area of special concern, such as those designated as having national or international importance (e.g. world heritages, wetlands, biosphere reserve, wildlife refuge, or protected areas), or lead to the extinction of endangered and endemic species.
With the exception of some important species (i.e. native) found in some of the surveyed sites, the majority of the encountered species are ornamental, medicinal and/or edible. An inventory of the species found was made site per site. It should be noted that the inventory listed only the species pertaining to this particular ecological stage and whose habitat corresponds more or less to the local settings in section 7.3.
Furthermore, the planned Project infrastructures in the rural areas are, in general, expected to be built in already degraded areas (e.g., Joun, washout points at Damour valley) and with some locations such as Wadi Abou Yabes representing a quarry site whereby the ecosystem is already adversely impacted.
As for the sites; Khalde (surge shaft and tunnel portal, pipeline corridor, distribution chambers), Hadath and Hazmieh (reservoirs' construction location) situated in the urban areas and whereby other construction activities are on-going, they are also considered highly degraded areas characterized by an insignificant biodiversity.
In such locations, the potential negative impacts are considered of Negligible (1C) effect since the Project largely affects degraded lands hence not affecting the native ecosystem of the Assessment Area and its immediate surroundings.
However, in some locations, though partly degraded, such as Ouardaniye, are rich in floral species (majority are common) with orchids documented in large amounts. Additional locations of particular significance include Nahr Damour Siphon/Washout (sanded area and area near bridge) and Khalde Flow measurement and tunnel chamber which are characterized by densely forested lands in their surroundings. Project-related impacts with regards to the local biodiversity in these areas relate to the total loss of trees (damage to the forested areas) and native species whereby the conifers Pinus brutia Ten., Pinus halepensis Mill. and Cupressus sempervirens L. are the most abundant formation.
Due to the importance of these ecological systems particularly in Khalde (area around flow measurement and tunnel chamber) and part of the Damour River (outskirt of existing recreations) and Ouardaniye and the required site clearance activities, impacts are considered of Moderate effect (3C) when no control measures are adopted during Construction particularly around these forested areas.
Mitigation measures to minimize the impacts on the local flora and vegetation include:
Preparing an inventory of the plants found in and around the following three sensitive sites, Nahr Damour, Ouardaniye WTW and Khalde flow measurement and sampling chamber. This would be a reference to keep track of all present species highlighting the most endemic and important and those which should be reintroduced following Construction;
Limiting vehicular transport to defined roads as to prevent unnecessary damage to vegetation;
Preserving top soil excavated by conventional methods (such as drilling);
Avoiding introducing invasive plant species (e.g. weeds).
All affected areas must be replanted with indigenous species appropriate to the respective sites, by agreement with ecological experts. Provisions for the availability for such plants should be ensured throughout the Project program.
Special effort and attention should be given to the following sites: Ouardaniye WTW, Nahr Damour Siphon/Washout and Khalde Flow measurement and tunnel chamber; and
Developing an ecosystem rehabilitation plan to regenerate and reintroduce some of the native species of trees (especially at the most degraded areas) present in the studied area, therefore leading to great positive impacts on biodiversity.
The planted trees can be either native but not found in the site such as Pinus pinea, Laurus nobilis, Cercis siliquastrum, Spartium junceum, Cupressus sempervirens etc. or native and found in the site as listed in Section 7.3.
With the proposed mitigation measures in place, the likelihood of the impact will be reduced to Medium and its effect to Minor (2B).