Beirut – Sanaa Al-Jack
Wednesday’s Lebanese Cabinet session saw talks on the recent clash between residents of the Metn town of Mansourieh and security forces over the installation of high-voltage power lines, which protesters say can cause cancerous diseases.

On the sidelines of the session, Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said: “Studies have proved that no harm would result from the high-voltage lines in Mansourieh; the standards to which we have committed are higher than European standards.”

He added: “The decision of the Council of Ministers is final in this regard and the security forces are tasked with securing the project implementation; attacks on the security forces will lead to problems.”

Energy Minister Nada al-Boustani, for her part, said that the high-voltage lines extended all over Lebanon, over Tire, Sidon, Keserouan and Metn, adding that they spare technical waste worth $20 million.

“We are against the use of force against demonstrators, as well as against the security forces,” she added.

Asharq Al-Awsat met the protesters in the area. One of the demonstrators appealed to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to intervene because he was “the only effective force in Lebanon.”

Another pointed to the workers, saying: “They are all Syrians. While Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is demanding their return to their country, he is using them today to kill us with cancer.”

“We have given the ministry studies that confirm the danger of extending the lines, but we do not know if they have read any of them,” said Mona Harb.

The residents have asked the government to extend underground lines, instead of installing them near the houses.

“They argue that the underground link will cost an additional $4 million, but they forget about the billions they have wasted on power ships, and the millions of dollars that the Ministry of Health will spend to cure the diseases that will afflict us if they complete their crime,” Harb remarked.

She indicated that the basic plan was to extend the lines in a land that has no houses on it, “but the property belongs to an influential figure, so the location of the project was changed.”

The residents of Mansourieh have been voicing their rejection of the project for 18 years now. The irony is that the Free Patriotic Movement was totally against the extension of the high-voltage power lines in the region. It even participated in the residents’ sit-ins and supported them, until Bassil took over the energy portfolio and then gave it to the current deputy and former minister Cesar Abu Khalil and then to Nada al-Boustani.