BEIRUT — A number of out-of-service military vehicles were immersed in the sea, off Batroun, North Lebanon, the Batroun International Festivals Committee announced Saturday, in an official inauguration of the "Batroun Underwater Museum" at the Phoenician Wall.
The inauguration took place in cooperation with the army and the municipality of Batroun and included an exhibition of several decommissioned military vehicles in an effort to promote the sport of diving.
The opening ceremony was attended by MP Gebran Bassil, Bishop Mounir Khairallah, a representative of the army chief General Joseph Aoun, the mayor of Batroun, the Union of Municipalities of Batroun Marcelino Al-Harak and the head of the Batroun International Festivals Committee, Sayed Fayyad.
During the ceremony, Fayyad thanked General Aoun for “fulfilling the committee’s request and his initiative to give directions to those needed to assist in implementation and specifying the location, leading to the landing of the vehicles 600 meters from the Phoenician wall and at a depth of 20 meters.”
He emphasized that "the site of the Phoenician Wall is an important choice for the Batroun Festivals Committee to establish this unique museum, which contributes to attracting the largest number of local and international tourists."
"There are a large number of diving enthusiasts in Lebanon and the world who go to Batroun to practice this hobby, and this is due to the quality of its waters that we have preserved, as our sea water has become one of the cleanest waters on the Lebanese coast, and this is proven by the results of the tests that we conduct annually," Fayyad added.
The latest water quality index prepared by the National Center for Marine Studies at the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS-L) and released on June 15 revealed Batroun's water quality ranges between "very good" and "good" categories.
For his part, Harak pointed out that "this site will be a destination, and the scope of the museum will expand under the water," thanking the army commander for "responding to our demand for the realization of this project and setting up a work team from the sea commandos to assist in the implementation."
A real paradise for fish?
What are the real consequences of this new installation?
Lebanese marine biologist Michel Bariche, head of the biology department at the American University of Beirut, told L'Orient-Le Jour that no studies are usually carried out on the benefits of introducing such materiel into an already difficult habitat for marine wildlife.
His comments came following the installation of Lebanese battle tanks in the Mediterranean off Saida, south of Beirut, in 2018, in hopes of creating an artificial reef.
The technique used in Saida, and replicated in Batroun recently, constitutes “a form of significant pollution and a fish trap, which is more like a simple refuge than a real habitat.”
The fish systematically come to take refuge in these wrecks and become an easy target for underwater fishermen, Bariche said.
Additional reporting by Michel Hallak