Lebanon’s hopes of having its candidate, Jeita Grotto, declared one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World were crushed as the winning list was announced on Friday night. The Lebanese disappointment was echoed across the Middle East as the region’s other two finalists, the Dead Sea of Israel, Jordan and Palestine and the Bu Tinah Island in the United Arab Emirates, also failed to make the final cut.
The campaign ignited an interest in the natural phenomenon in Lebanon with millions of votes being recorded as the Lebanese cave was pitted against other finalists such as the Amazon rainforest and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The telephone company ‘Alfa’ alone reported that 3.7 million text message votes had been sent in support of the cave by its users.
But after the high-profile ‘Vote Jeita’ campaign, the mood in Beirut was subdued as posters began to be brought down.
However, the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged optimism in the face of defeat saying that “the mere fact Jeita Grotto made it to the final phase of the poll for the new 7 natural wonders of the world secured its place on the global map for tourism.”
He also stressed the need to protect Jeita’s “brilliance and splendour” now that its name has been “raised high throughout the universe”. Mikati added that the cave would be on the Cabinet’s agenda in the coming weeks, prompting activists’ hopes for increased efforts to secure its preservation.
Earlier this year concerns were raised over the quality of the water in the Lower Jeita Grotto. Despite the fact that roughly a third of Lebanon’s population regularly uses water coming from Jeita or nearby springs, studies suggest that for much of the year the water inside the caves is teeming with bacteria.
Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported in March that the European Union is funding several projects to create an infrastructure for wastewater collection and treatment. It is hoped that these projects will help to reduce bacteriological contamination in the Jeita springs.
Coming from a tiny village in rural England, Will is particularly interested in the relationship between politics and the environment on a local and national level. He is a student of Arabic and Perisan at Oxford, where he reguarly writes comment pieces for one of the student papers, and is currently in Beirut as part of the year abroad of his degree.
More on the 7 Natural Wonders of the World:
Cave Discovery in Lebanon could Boost Jeita Grott’s 7 Natural Wonder Campaign
Protect the Middle East’s Natural Wonders
Naked Dead Sea Picture Released by Spencer Tunick