Beirut’s stolen coast and the growing fight to get it back

Beirut’s stolen coast and the growing fight to get it back

Activists have put together this great new video looking at how Beirut’s natural rocky coastline has basically been stolen from the public, destroyed and turned into concrete marinas for private resorts.

 

What’s particularly interesting about the video is that it uses maps to illustrate the radical transformation of the shoreline and brazen transgressions of laws that were aimed at protecting it.

Take for example this map of the Beirut coast before real estate exploitation:

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And after:

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The video, which was produced by the lawyers’ collective Legal Agenda and the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh is based on investigative research that exposed the dubious decree 169 of 1989, which allowed the building of the Movenpick Hotel in contravention of coastal protection laws that preceded it. This set into motion a precedent that allowed more seizure of public coastal properties and the mushrooming of more resorts, as seen above.

Before the Movenpick:

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After:

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The good news is that decree 169 never went through official channels and was never published publicly, lawyers have found, creating grounds for the launching of a lawsuit against the state, which is currently pending.

In the meantime, more resorts are being planned, threatening to repeat the destruction caused by decree 169 and obliterate the last remaining stretch of public coast.

After a multi-pronged campaign of three years, activists have already challenged a major project planned for the coast of Dalieh and Raouche, and lobbied the Environment Ministry to issue a draft decree to protect the area. But it has yet to pass in Parliament and Dalieh may still may be threatened.

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The coast of Dalieh, source: Cedric Ghoussoub

Other projects are already underway including the massive Eden Rock marina and towers project, being built just a few feet from the waterline.

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Excavation for Eden Rock resort on Ramlet El Baida beach, source: Firas BouZeineddine
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Eden Rock excavation, source: Iffat Edriss Chatila

Last week activists made it down to the construction site and attempted to disrupt this public property seizure by yanking out the hoses being used to dredge the area to lay concrete foundations on the beach.

One activist involved in the action was assaulted by an employee of the real estate company and others have been questioned by police or threatened with lawsuits. Interestingly, the police have not asked to question the developers of the resort about the destruction of the public coastline and the billions of dollars that will be made at the public’s expense.

Instead of investigating the project’s destruction of the natural environment, seizure of public lands and dubious legal foundation, local broadcaster Future TV,  chose instead to produce an entire music video-like report lavishing praise on the developers and congratulating them for their achievements.  Activists have come up with this clever montage that mixes the propagandistic report with the situation on the ground:

 

If all of this sounds crazy and unjust to you, you can join over a dozen civil rights and environmental organizations this Saturday (Nov. 26) for “El Shat La Kil El Nes” (The Coast For All The People) in what promises to be a massive march calling for accountability from the billionaire class that runs this country, and approves such projects.

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The march begins at 4PM near the gate of the public beach at Ramlet El Baida. Here is the event page

For more on how the coast has been privatized and destroyed across Beirut and the rest of the country, you can see my piece in the Guardian last year “A City Without a Shore: The Paving of Beirut’s Coast”

The Beirut Madinati political collective also launched an online protest to the disappearing coast:

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Artists have been chipping in as well, such as this illustration by Omar Saliba Abdel Samad:

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Caption: “Beirut with no coast?!”

A couple of weeks ago activists also confronted Beirut’s governor on how construction was approved on the coast and why other countries have managed to keep hotels off the sand, which should remain public. He didn’t seem to have a lot of answers when confronted with historic maps and laws that cast doubt on the legality of such construction. Watch the live recording provided by the NGO Nahnoo, which hosted the event, here: