APAL prepares to diagnose Sidi Bou Said hill threatened by landslides

Tunis: The Sidi Bou Said hill is at risk of landslides, according to the acting director-general of the Coastal Protection and Development Agency (French: APAL), Mehdi Belhaj, who added that the risk and extent of the expected slides can only be assessed after an accurate diagnosis of the situation. In an interview with TAP TV, Belhaj explained that the erosion of the hill from below is the result of marine erosion, pointing out that the quality of the hill's soil makes it vulnerable to erosion. The official pointed out that the top of the hill is also at risk of slipping as it has started to slide due to the rains, pointing out that there are slides under the Ennejma Ezzahra Palace. Belhaj warned that breaches in residential construction on the hill contribute to this imminent danger, pointing out that during the first inspection carried out at the end of 2023, there were suspicions of other factors causing this danger, such as water infiltration in addition to irrigation and swimming pool water. He stre ssed that the risk and extent of the expected slides could only be assessed after a thorough diagnosis of the situation. In April 2024, the Coastal Protection and Development Agency issued a call for tenders to carry out a six-month technical study to diagnose the situation, propose solutions and estimate the cost of the work. The agency received 400,000 dinars from the Ministry of Finance for the study, he said. The study will select the appropriate solutions for the hill by applying geotechnical solutions, he said, adding that the intervention will take place after the study is completed and the quality of the interventions is determined, expecting a stone chain to be among the solutions. He stressed that the intervention programme will be carried out at the level of the entire hill, starting with the most dangerous areas. This can happen on any mountain anywhere in the world, but the important thing is to intervene in time," he said. On January 29, a technical working meeting was held at the headquar ters of the Sidi Bou Said municipality, chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries, Abdelmonem Belati, to discuss practical solutions to the landslide situation on the Sidi Bou Said plateau and around the Ennejma Ezzahra palace. The Minister emphasised the need for rapid action to prioritise the need for intervention and to act proactively to reduce potential risks. Sidi Bou Said is a tourist suburb 20 kilometres north-east of Tunis. The suburb is the world's first protected medieval site, perched high on a cliff overlooking Carthage and the Gulf of Tunis. Tunisia is seeking to inscribe the historic village of Sidi Bou Said on the UNESCO World Heritage List. On March 2, 2024, a working meeting at the Ministry of Culture brought together the then Minister of Culture, Hayet Kettat Guermazi, and the head of the cultural programme at the UNESCO Office for the Arab Maghreb, Karim Hendili, to discuss the possibility of such an application. Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse