The Minister of Environment, Mohammad Rahhal, has ordered the shutdown of 81 rock and sand quarries in various districts as they have not complied with environmental and licensing standards. Following this decision, prices of ready concrete rose to over ten dollars per square meter.
The Engineers and Contractors which convened in an extraordinary meeting said that the decision of “the concerned ministry” has paralyzed the sector, stopped thousands of construction sites, and caused millions of dollars in losses for contractors. The Committee said that such decisions are caused by a misunderstanding for the sector which is “living an era of development and prosperity.”
Businessnews spoke to the Minister who blamed the rise in construction prices on quarry owners who are “trying to hold him back from his decision through raising prices.”
"I understand the sector very well," Rahhal said. He said that he has ordered the closure of quarries that do not have licenses to operate and the ones that have not fulfilled the requirements.
Rahhal said that quarry owners are taking advantage of the short age of governments to obtain licenses. “They then surpass all laws, destroying green territories and mountains, causing big environmental losses for Lebanon, and huge financial losses for the government,” he said.
Rahhal said that sand and rock quarries that are currently operating are the ones that already obtained licenses from the government. He said that the Ministry is ready to provide licenses to quarries which “comply with the environmental standards.”
The Committee called for setting up joint teams formed of representatives of the “concerned ministries” and representatives of both syndicates to tackle the issue. In case quick decisions to solve the issue are not taken, “we will study an option to halt construction at all public and private construction sites,” they said.
The Minister said that he agrees with the Syndicate of Engineers on the need to restructure the sector. “I have taken a final decision to organize the work of quarries and protect green fields,” Rahhal said.