The island of Al-Zireh, the last remnant of Sidon’s otherwise sunken Old City, witnessed the installation of the largest underwater “garden” in the Mediterranean Saturday.
The artificial reef will aim to rejuvenate marine life near Sidon’s coast and also be a destination for tourists and divers.
Six old tanks and four other military vehicles, all of which had been donated by the Lebanese Army, were submerged to form a habitat where coral reefs could grow and reproduce. The Friends of Al-Zireh Island association, which works to preserve the island, collaborated with the Army and the municipality of Sidon to install the tanks and other vehicles.
Artificial reefs are structures, usually steel or concrete, that offer a place for corals and marine invertebrates to shelter and feed. The submerged vehicles will provide a surface for corals to grow on, and a shelter for tiny fish.
The installation began early Saturday morning and took about 13 hours. All of the vehicles were submerged to a depth of 14, 17 and 18 meters, about 6 to 40 meters apart from one another, within an area of about 150 square meters near Al-Zireh island.
The garden was the brainchild of Mohammad al-Sarji, the head of the Union of Professional Divers, who aided in the vehicles’ submersion.
Speaking at the installation, Kamel Kozbar, a member of the Sidon Municipal Council and the chair of the Friends of Al-Zireh Island, thanked Army Commander Joseph Aoun for the Army’s donation.
The vehicles arrived in Sidon from Amchit about two months ago and were stored at Sidon’s port. During this time, studies were conducted in the area to determine where the vehicles should be placed, as well as the environmental effects they could have on marine life.
“These vehicles will form a suitable habitat for the reproduction of coral reefs and marine life, and we thank everyone who contributed and supported this project,” Kozbar said. He also said an event to celebrate the garden’s official opening in the presence of the Army commander will soon be announced.
Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi praised the garden’s successful installation. “The Army’s gift is the essence of this garden, which will provide a home for coral reefs and fish reproduction,” Saudi said.
The installation comes as maritime pollution in Lebanon – and particularly in Sidon – recently reached alarming levels. A 2017 study by the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute found that the coasts of Beirut and Sidon experience the worst cases of contamination in Lebanon as a result seaside landfills and sewage.
The coast of Sidon was among the areas labeled “dangerously contaminated” and unfit for swimming.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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