The Lebanese Association for Speleological Studies (ALES) has revealed that the Qattine Azar sinkhole, discovered in Aintoura al-Metn, is the most developed underground system in Lebanon and the Levant.

ALES announced, during a press conference held on Friday at the French Cultural Mission in Beirut, that this sinkhole, with a depth of 507 meters, is the second deepest in Lebanon after the Fouar Dara sinkhole (622 meters).

It extends “over 11,867 meters, in the form of corridors, galleries, shafts and river tributaries,” according to the press release issued by ALES. “The immense reservoir of water at the bottom of the sinkhole makes it an important element in any sustainable development project in the region,” according to the text.

In this context, the association announced the publication of a special issue of its specialist scientific journal, Spéléorient Hors-Série. The volume includes documentation covering 27 years of exploration of the Qattine Azar sinkhole, encompassing scientific data, images and maps.

According to the press release, between 1996 and 2021, ALES members worked hard in the Qattine Azar sinkhole, exploring 9,517 meters of it. In 2022, a joint French-Lebanese mission involving ALES and the Continent 8 team explored a further 2,350 meters of the underground system.

Since 1996, ALES has been working with the Technical Office for Development, the Ministry of Water and Energy, and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, to study groundwater usage possibilities. A project has been implemented to extract 6,000 cubic meters of water per day, contributing to the daily consumption of 27 villages in the Higher Metn region, which suffer from a shortage of fresh water.