• 23 JUN 14
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    Lebanese Environment Minister protests against Beirut coast privatization

    Mohamad Machnouk, Lebanon’s Environment Minister came out publicly against plans to privatize Beirut’s coastline.

    In a Facebook status update published on June 8 Machnouk wrote, “scandalous: these wires must not block our national natural rawsheh!”

    Machnouk’s Facebook cry comes following months of activism, protesting the privatization of the Daliya Peninsula, hailed as the city’s last undeveloped stretch of coast. An additional luxury hotel resort is expected to be built on the land. Lobbying activities include a Facebook page dedicated to the struggle.

    “Some have dismissed the activism, arguing that the property developers are too powerful and politically-connected to be stopped. But the Minister’s strong opposition to the fence may create more attention, complicating matters for the developers and lending traction to growing grassroots efforts,” commented Beirut Report blogger Habib Battah. The Rawsheh, or Pigeon’s Rock formation adjacent to the Daliya Peninsula, is a symbol of Lebanon, used on historic currency notes. Daliya Peninsula is itself a natural asset replete with limestone pools and marine caves.

    Mohamad Machnouk Facebook status

    Activists and commentators say that blocking access to the coast is illegal. “For Beirut, it is enshrined by law that the residents of the city must have access to the sea, and resorts should not deny them that right. However, the implementation of such laws is held back because of the collaboration of governance and business elites,” wrote Yazan al-Saadi in Al-Akhbar.

    The case of Daliya is yet another example of “the manipulation of the 1966 regulatory decree no. 4810, which regulates the use of maritime public property and has been constantly circumvented, exploited, and distorted to make way for the development of the Beirut coast,” he added.

    The Daliya parcels were purchased, perhaps illegally, by companies owned by the family of politician and business tycoon Rafik Hariri.

    Yet Beirut officials say that the law ultimately favors developers. “In Lebanon, private land is sacred. So I don’t know what they expect the municipality to do,” municipality VP Nadim Abou-Rizk told The Economist.

    Al-Saadi put the development in wider context of dwindling public space. Daliya “is one of the last places of leisure for many, particularly the poor who cannot afford the expensive entrance fees charged by beach and swimming pool resorts which have eclipsed virtually all of Beirut’s shoreline,” he stressed, while a new resort would close the Peninsula off to all but “a small affluent section of Lebanese society.”

    A World Bank document confirms that the situation is indicative of that in Lebanon as a whole, with environmental protections covering only one segment of coast in the Tyre region.

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