Tags Posts tagged with "Mediterranean"

Mediterranean

An LBC camera crew has become the latest victim of violent Lebanese real estate companies seizing the country’s diminishing natural shores, destroying essential ecosystems for profit and assaulting anyone who tries to document their activities. The LBC crew was violently attacked on Wednesday while filming a new resort being built in the tiny village of Mansouri in South Lebanon, home to the country’s only untouched sand beach and rare sea turtle reserve.

The attack was recorded on the TV reporter’s cell phone and is now making the rounds on Facebook. As soon as the news camera pans toward the resort– built directly onto the public coastline, in what appears to be a clear violation of the constitution and international maritime conventions–a man comes charging toward the TV crew with his fist raised. He throws the cameraman to the floor and then yanks him up by his shirt, shouting in his face: “What are you doing you dick!

He then grabs a man helping the crew and holds him by the shirt: “Do you know who I am? If I want to shoot you I will shoot you, you dog!”

Get the hell out of here,” he repeats,  adding in the crudest terms: “kissikhtkoon bi aiiry (I’ll put my d*** in your sisters’ p****)!”

The man then approaches the woman being interviewed, Mona Khalil, who manages the turtle reserve and operates a small bed and breakfast nearby the new resort development, whose owners have not been revealed. The man rushes toward her and says. “I will burn tires in front of your house on orders of the Hezb (Hezbollah) and the Harke (Amal Movement).”

Watch the video here:

[ممنوع التصوير]

يوم تغيب الدولة.. يضرب الزعران..اوقفت شعبة المعلومات ح.ش (مواليد عام 1981) لإعتدائه على فريق LBCI اثناء اعدادهم تقرير حول محمية السلاحف البحرية في صور.(Source: LBCI)

Posted by STOP Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

 

The cell phone footage was used to open the LBC news bulletin, which condemned the destruction of Lebanon’s coast. It was also featured in the reporter’s news package and the broadcaster even ran a full in-studio interview with the reporter Sobhiya Najjar, for a first hand account on the attack she and her cameraman, Samir Baytamouni experienced.

بالتفاصيل – ماذا حصل مع فريق الـ LBCI في صور؟

بالتفاصيل – ماذا حصل مع فريق الـ LBCI في صور؟لمزيد من التفاصيل زوروا موقعنا https://goo.gl/8WESLg

Posted by LBCI Lebanon on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

 

Najjar said she was prompted to investigate the story after seeing a Facebook post by Khalil, who has been vigilantly documenting the resort development since construction began. She says the construction has been taking place slowly and secretively, and that the resort will put the turtle nesting project and the entire ecosystem at severe risk.

 

The attack began when the reporter was looking at the social impact side of the story by interviewing a young boy asking him what would happen if the beaches were privatized and closed to the local community. At that moment the man came out of nowhere swinging and punched the cameraman in the face.

Of course this developer must be afraid of our reporting because he just attacked us immediately, he didn’t even try to talk to us or ask who we were,” Najjar said.

Because the village of Mansouri is so small and has no mayor, Najjar said she requested and was granted permission from a local administrative official in Tyre before heading out to the site. But that same official curiously later accused her and the crew of breaking into the site and instigating violence against the assaulter.

The official also promised to provide the necessary permits proving that the resort was “legal” but then said the documents could only provided if Najjar handed over the attack footage. She simply told him he would see it on the evening news.

At this point, the interviewer also reminds viewers that according to a law recently passed by parliament, the media and the public have the right to access all government decisions and legislation.

Najjar ends by noting that this is not the first time her team has been attacked while reporting on a resort, with similar experiences in Adloun, an endangered coastal archeological site, as well as Ramlet El Baida, Beirut’s only public beach. Cameraman Baytamouni has also been attacked multiple times in the past.

LBC reported that the assailant was arrested and the crew waited at the turtle reserve until an army  escort arrived. But some worry the man could be bailed out of jail at any moment and that there will be no accountability for those further up the chain of command. It remains unclear who owns this resort.

It’s also important to note that not all journalists and citizen reporters carry the weight of LBC–one of the country’s largest and most influential media outlets– with its high level political and military contacts to get out of a jam. In May, an activist was attacked and his phone destroyed when trying to document the construction of Eden Bay resort in Beirut, which has also been built directly on the public sand coastline.

 

In February, straw huts used at the public beach nearby the Eden Bay resort were reportedly set on fire. Those who manage the area have frequently mobilized against the Eden Bay resort.

Arsonists apparently set fire to the straw huts at Beirut's only free public beach. This is the same beach that is being eyed by private developers. Will the police investigate?

Posted by Beirut Report on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

 

And in November of last year, an activist resisting the Eden Bay resort by pulling out its dredging hoses (reportedly installed illegally and subject to a constitutional lawsuit) was beaten and bloodied, as shown in this video:

Activist reportedly beaten after trying to sabotage dredging work at private high rise project (Eden Rock) on Beirut's…

Posted by Beirut Report on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

 

Finally I have personally been assaulted by developers when photographing ancient ruins discovered during the excavation of the massive District S project in downtown Beirut back in 2013. Site workers and supervisors locked me inside the project gates, tackled me and twisted my arms until I erased all photos I had taken of the ruins. The project is now going forward and all traces of the ancient history of Beirut on that spot have been erased. See previous post:

Getting physically assaulted today at District S site

 

The question begs asking: are real estate developers more powerful than the state itself? How exactly did we relinquish control over our country and its scarce natural resources to these violent, destructive and self-serving firms?

All of these attacks raise important questions about the lawless state of Lebanon’s multi-billion dollar real estate industry, its frequent destruction of public space and ecosystems and its intimate relationship with the country’s leading politicians, who have routinely bent or broken laws to make projects happen. Above all the real estate industry’s immense profitability is made possible by a shameful lack of environmental or labor regulations compounded by an utter lack of taxes paid into the system to cover the damages and drain on resources and infrastructure these mega projects cause.

In fact, as I have reported for the Guardian, there are over 1,000 illegal resorts built on Lebanon’s coast making immense profits and paying no taxes with many owned by politicians themselves. While police take pains to crack down on minor violations such as destroying tin fisherman shacks along the coast or possession of small amounts of cannabis among poor farmers, the police fail to take any action against multi-million dollar resorts and their wealthy and well-connected owners. And let’s remember these projects are not only local–many are financed, designed or executed by multinational corporations, regional, Western and global, seizing upon the opportunity to exploit a developing market with weak law enforcement and low to nonexistent tariffs or regulations to ensure public health, safety or sustainability. 

The only upside to this story is that exposure and shaming of these resorts and destructive projects is gaining ground with activist campaigns mushrooming over recent years and growing more sophisticated in their use of technology, visualizations, distribution channels as well as major lawsuits being launched. See this previous post for more details on the battle to save Lebanon’s coast:

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

 

Of course all this exposure is being made possible by advances in the breadth and reach of social media, but also by old school print and TV media, which is becoming increasingly bold.

At the end of her interview, Najjar is asked if she will continue to report on seafront projects despite the dangers posed to her and her crew.

“Of course. We are not here to do regular reporting. We are here today to play a role as the fourth estate. We are not here just to represent ourselves, we are here to represent the public interest. 

You know, no one dared even to speak to us on camera in Tyre. This shows you the kind of political backing this project has.”

Perhaps it is time responsible real estate developers also exercise some social and moral responsibility for the immense profits they are making. If there are ethical construction and real estate firms in Lebanon, will they condemn this activity and be transparent with the public? Or will they and the country’s politicians remain silent and complicit in their colleagues’ behavior?

 

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:

 

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After several weeks of organizing and documentation by activists, the minister of environment has called for a halt to a port project that threatens to destroy the natural coast in Adloun (South Lebanon) believed to be the location of an ancient civilization.

However, in this report by LBC, there appears to be a tug-of-war going on between the Ministry of Public Works, which is carrying out excavation works, and the Environment and Culture Ministries who say work must stop until studies have taken place and a joint committee is allowed to examine the project, dubbed “Nabih Berri Port.” The Ministry of Public Works says the other ministries have failed to come up with any proposals for over 15 days, giving them the defacto right to carry on with the project. So in the meantime the destruction of the rocky coast, which is claimed to be a Phoenician port town, is continuing and LBC says the ancient ruins may be lost before a joint-committee is formed to investigate the matter.

One interesting aspect left out of the LBC report is that the Public Works Ministry, which is adamant on pushing forward with the project, is being led by a political subordinate of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whom the new port is being named after.

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According to a report by Al Akhbar, the “Nabih Berri Port” project is worth around $26.6 million and encompasses an area of 164,000 square meters. While the ministry says the project will create jobs and serve the surrounding fishing community, Al Akhbar and local activists say the port is being designed to accommodate 400 luxury yachts, that will cause massive environmental damage to the village, which does not have the infrastructure to accommodate such traffic. Al Akhbar alleges that destruction continues despite cessation requests from the other ministries and in the absence of an environmental impact study,  a claim also carried in a report by the Lebanese lawyers’ collective Legal Agenda.  Al Akhbar further reports that the awarding of the excavation contract to “Khoury Contracting Company” came under an irregular bid and with little input from or discussion with the local community.

In a report by Al Jadeed TV, the head of a south Lebanon preservation group says Adloun is a known Phoenician port site that has not been properly excavated. She says that it is preservation and celebration of Adloun’s heritage that will bring economic benefits to the local community, not converting the site into yet another playground for the wealthy.

Much of the outcry and media coverage over what is happening to the site was sparked by the work of local activist group Green Southerns who have been documenting the destruction on a daily basis with a series of amateur videos like this one, which have in turn been carried by mainstream media:

As well as reports on the site’s archeological significance:

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The Green Southern group has also documented Adloun’s ecological and marine life significance as an increasingly rare sea turtle nesting ground:

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It’s hard to say what the precise archeological history of the current excavation site is from pictures alone and the reporting thus far, although it is clear that the Adloun area has been the site of numerous archeological expeditions dating back to the the late 1800s with evidence uncovered suggesting both Phoenician as well as pre-historic remains dating back to 70,000 BCE.

What’s also disconcerting about the rush to build over Adloun is how the state and it’s crony capital partners have once again managed to seize public coastal property for what could be luxury, exclusive development under the guise of ‘public good’.

As I reported for The Guardian last year, the Lebanese coast has largely been colonized by illegal or vaguely legal projects that have fenced off much of the coast from the public, denying the constitutional right to beach access. According to the government’s own studies, there are approximately five illegal resorts usurping public maritime property for every one kilometer stretch of Lebanon’s 220 kilometer coastline.

A lot of these infractions took place during the last three decades, well before the inception of social media and the subsequent enhancement of activism bolstered by popular blog posts as well as increased mainstream media attention. Will this make a difference in the case of projects planned for Adloun, Dalieh, Byblos and other planned–and now fiercely opposed–projects? In some respects, it already has, but will be the long term impacts?

You can follow more of Green Southerns work on their Facebook page where they have recently launched on online petition to preserve the site. They’ve also recently staged a demonstration at the National Museum to get the press’s attention:

 

As winter begins to fade, it’s a beautiful time for a walk along the corniche.

Street performers are not too common in Beirut– signs actually prohibit them in some parts of the city and I’ve even seen an army soldier haul one away in downtown.

It’s good to see some are making a comeback in less restricted areas.

I don’t usually write poetry but here goes…

The beautiful trees, the bountiful sky

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The occasional battleship passing by…

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I was on my way to drop off my recycling at Ziad’s recycling plant near the port of Beirut when I noticed this nasty river.

Workers nearby told me all the sewers of Beirut flow through here. It’s  literally a raging river of fifth:

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And the smell standing here is vomit inducing.

This an aerial view of the port area, and as you can see, the brown waste is visible from space:

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Here’s a close up of the canal in my photo. The area is known as Karantina and the canal is just next to the slaughterhouse.

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This is my second post about sewage flowing from Beirut’s coast. I previously documented a big brown spill off the coast of Khalde, near the airport. So how many sewers flow right into the sea from Beirut? And why is this wastewater not treated?

Equally important, why isn’t this story on TV more often? Isn’t it more important than all the politicians visits and press conferences that dominate the evening news? Do any of them have anything to say about sewage?

Nowroz Kurdish celebration(1)
Weekend gathering in Dalieh. Source: Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh

Activists have claimed that a multi-million dollar real estate project by world-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas is being planned for Dalieh, one of the last undeveloped coastal areas in Beirut.

If confirmed, the project would mean that Dalieh, a public swimming and picnic area for generations of Beirut families, may now be restricted to the richest segment of the population, depriving the city’s lower and middle classes of any picnic or recreational grounds.

This news comes in sharp contrast to a statement made by the property owners to Executive magazine a few months ago when asked what was planned for Dalieh: “No construction or any other permit is being or will be sought in the foreseeable future as far as I am aware” a representative of the Hariri family, which owns a majority of the land, told Executive in August.

Activists with the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh, which include architects, engineers, urban planners and professors, released the announcement in a letter to Koolhaas published in Jadaliyya today, discussing the manipulation of laws and environmental protections that have allowed the project to go forward.

Here is an excerpt:

“…private real-estate developers have lobbied affiliate politicians to pass multiple exceptions to existing laws that serve their interests, allowing intensive building exploitation ratios at the expense of the city’s livability. The lobbyists behind these regulations are not only property owners, but also policy-makers, ministers, and other members of the political elite who have turned law into yet another tool that serves their private interests. Your client is a member of one of the most powerful players among that elite. Thus, while the entire zone of the project was non-ædificandi (unbuildable) until 1966, exploitation ratios have gradually increased reaching a whopping sixty percent rate, according to the most recent modification of April 2014. The effects of these exceptions to the law are clearly visible on the city, where miles of public beaches and open spaces have been turned into a gated private resorts and landscapes. A design intervention that works within this usurped legal framework will serve the interests of a handful of policy-makers/property-owners who are blatantly manipulating the law to their own advantage, at the detriment of the city, its natural environment, and its dwellers.”

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One of several natural pools in Dalieh, used by Beirut residents for generations.

 

Through the help of lawyers, the activists uncovered significant irregularities in the laws that have made the project possible (passed during the chaos of the civil war) and they have recently launched a major lawsuit you can read about here.

Not only does the project threaten human activity, but activists also say it poses a danger to Dalieh’s unique wildlife and archeology that had previously been protected by Lebanese government bodies:

“Numerous studies highlight the ecological value of this area, particularly as it includes representative marine habitats, namely underwater caves and vermetid reefs where a unique sea-life flourishes. We cite, for instance, the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territories (approved by decree 2366/2009) that identifies this site as a distinguished natural area of utmost importance to be protected, as well as Plan Vert de Beyrouth(2000) proposed by renowned architects and urbanists, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment (2012), Greenpeace’s A Network of Marine Reserves in the Coastal Waters of Lebanon (2012)”

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Dalieh contains several natural caves, inhabited by wildlife

For more images of the possibly endangered natural caves and pools of Dalieh, see this previous post. The site is also the place for many popular celebrations, such as Nowruz, as covered here.

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Last year’s Nowruz celebrations in Dalieh by Lebanon’s Kurdish community

The new property owners have recently fenced off the area with barbed wire, a move Lebanon’s minster of environment called “scandalous.” For more on the grassroots activism to protect this site see this post.

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Finally, you can find the entire letter to Mr. Koolhas, which I have republished below:

 

“We have recently learned that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has been commissioned to develop a design for a projected development on a prime sea-front location in Beirut (Lebanon): the Dalieh of Raoucheh. Proposing a private development over such a prime social, national, archeological and geological landmark in Lebanon has generated an ongoing public outcry, in the form of protests, letters to officials, discussions, andmedia mobilization. We are writing today to alert you to the disturbing facts behind the project, and solicit your support in outlining an alternative vision for Beirut’s seafront. Here are the facts fuelling the dispute over the project:

1. The project erases an important social space and a national landmark

For decades, the site where the project is being designed has been a prime social and public gathering for Beirut dwellers, but also a national landmark for Lebanese citizens. The site included traditional fishermen ports, informal restaurants, and a vibrant informal economy that lived off such temporary recreational activities. These activities have recently been interrupted as the site was reclaimed as “private property,” and fenced-off, displacing its long-term users.

Adding to the social and symbolic significance of the site is its immediate proximity to the Raoucheh rock, perhaps the main city landmark that holds enormous symbolic significance at national and international scales. Frequently used as a metonym for Lebanon’s natural beauty, the Rock has appeared on national currency as well as in numerous films, histories, and imageries of the city. Any architectural intervention that modifies this seafront landscape, particularly one that privatizes a natural extension of this public landmark, will have resounding negative impacts.

2. The project is built on property that was partially acquired illegally

Dalieh properties were the result of the visions of Ottoman and later French authorities to entrust the city’s commons to the main families of the city, as its custodians and protectors. Until 1995, these properties had multiple owners, who were all members of the so-called “old families of Beirut.” One investor managed to buy these property shares, consolidate single private ownership and expand it over what was the city’s collective commons. This take-over operation has been represented as a de-facto reality that overshadows the historical communal practices in Dalieh and represents them as illegal squatting of private land. This led to the fencing-off of the area and the subsequent prohibition of access to the sea.

Historical and contemporary property records we have obtained unequivocally demonstrate that property boundaries in the area have been modified to encroach on the public maritime domain, in contravention of the law. In other words, a large section of the area where the project is currently planned has been illegally privatized. This includes the fishermen port that, until recently, secured the livelihood of over seventy-five families, and also served as a recreational space for thousands of others. Implementing this project in this location will make theft of public land a fait accompli.

3. The project serves the narrow interests of an elite group of politicians and real-estate developers

While urban and building regulations had relatively protected Beirut’s seafront for decades, making of the promenade along the coast a landmark communal space in the city, regulations have been considerably modified over the past twenty-five years. Indeed, private real-estate developers have lobbied affiliate politicians to pass multiple exceptions to existing laws that serve their interests, allowing intensive building exploitation ratios at the expense of the city’s livability. The lobbyists behind these regulations are not only property owners, but also policy-makers, ministers, and other members of the political elite who have turned law into yet another tool that serves their private interests. Your client is a member of one of the most powerful players among that elite. Thus, while the entire zone of the project was non-ædificandi (unbuildable) until 1966, exploitation ratios have gradually increased reaching a whopping sixty percent rate, according to the most recent modification of April 2014. The effects of these exceptions to the law are clearly visible on the city, where miles of public beaches and open spaces have been turned into a gated private resorts and landscapes. A design intervention that works within this usurped legal framework will serve the interests of a handful of policy-makers/property-owners who are blatantly manipulating the law to their own advantage, at the detriment of the city, its natural environment, and its dwellers.

4. The project threatens a unique ecosystem

Numerous studies highlight the ecological value of this area, particularly as it includes representative marine habitats, namely underwater caves and vermetid reefs where a unique sea-life flourishes. We cite, for instance, the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territories (approved by decree 2366/2009) that identifies this site as a distinguished natural area of utmost importance to be protected, as well as Plan Vert de Beyrouth(2000) proposed by renowned architects and urbanists, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment (2012), Greenpeace’s A Network of Marine Reserves in the Coastal Waters of Lebanon (2012)

5. The project will destroy a rich archeological site

The site is etched with features that could be traced back to the geological history of Lebanon. In fact, it may be the last remaining coastal karstic outcrop on the Beirut city coast, which is the backbone of the city’s visual landscape. Among other sites on the coastal strip, it is also by far the most extensive and important site that presents evidence of the Stone Age in the Levant.

In light of the above, we are appealing to you in your roles as founder and lead architect of the firm, and as an educator and a public intellectual, to side by us in advocating to your client, but also to planning and urban authorities in Beirut the preservation of a site with unique characteristics, and withdraw services on this project. If such advocacy efforts falter, we urge you to dissociate yourself and your firm from this contentious project.

We remain open, as a campaign, to meet with your office to discuss in more detail various aspects of this controversial project and this key national site.

Sincerely,

The Civil Campaign for the Protection of the Dalieh of Beirut”
http://www.facebook.com/dalieh.org

 

***

UPDATE 12/18/14: Rem Koolhaas has responded to the letter in a Facebook thread below the Jadaliyya article. Here is the full text:

Dear Civil Campaign team,

Thank you for your open letter from the 15th of December. I appreciate its tone and its content.

Several months ago we were asked to think about the Dalieh of Raoucheh site. From the beginning our client has shown an awareness of its uses, its history and its beauty, and is clearly expecting us to respect and preserve these qualities in the development of our ideas.

Since we have become involved, our research has convinced us only more of the site’s uniqueness, its importance as a public space on the Beirut coastline, and its role in the civic life of the city. The directions that we are beginning to develop do full justice to these qualities, and are compatible with the pleas expressed in your letter. It is, for instance, our intention to actually enhance public accessibility of the site. As in all our work, we are trying to preserve what works well and add only with discretion and intelligence.

I should emphasize that at this point there is in fact no project, just a series of initial explorations. If in due course a project takes shape, we look forward to continuing communication on a more concrete basis. For the time being, please know that we take your letter seriously and that we hope to together maintain a substantial conversation about the issues your letter justly raises.

Best regards,

Rem Koolhaas

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Activists alleged that the state has illegally provided tens of thousands of square meters of public shoreline to well-connected investors. The move paves the way for the creation of at least five new massive resort projects on the last stretch of undeveloped coast in the capital.

The activists from the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh made their case yesterday at the press syndicate, presenting a series of documents that reveal the manipulation of laws that has allowed investors to seize public property for free, in some cases tripling the size of their existing projects.

The suit, which was launched last week, focuses particularly on Decree 169 of 1989 which removed state protection from the last undeveloped shore in Ras Beirut surrounding the landmark Raouche “pigeon rocks” and includes Beirut’s only free beach, Ramlet el Baida. The area is known as “zone 10” and runs the length of the Roauche coastline from the Summerland resort, passed the pigeon rocks and up to the Sporting resort.

This area had been exempt from development until the 1989 decree but that decree was never published publicly, activists claim. According to Lebanese law, new legislation must be published in the weekly National Gazette– a state record of new laws– in order to become enforceable and legally binding. But activists said there is no record of the law’s publication. And if a law is not published publicly, it cannot be challenged as the time limit for appealing a law is only two months, the activists said.

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Activists deconstruct Decree 169 on overhead projection
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Activists provide maps detailing the appropriation of public property along the coast in Dalieh

The coalition was represented by architect and urbanist Abir Saksouk-Sasso (center) and Ali Darwish (left) the head of the environmental organization, Greenline.

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Investors exploitation in “Zone 10” is further boosted by a controversial set of laws passed in the late 1960s and 1980s that give developers special privileges to take publicly held land adjacent to their projects at no cost. According to decrees passed in 1966 and 1982 investors who own at least 20,000 square meters of property are allowed to claim double the amount they already own in public land surrounding their projects with the aim of “supporting tourism” (though the resorts are often only accessible to elites).  Yet “Zone 10” had been exempt from this development up until the 1989 decree that is subject of today’s lawsuit.

There was a pretty good turnout from the mainstream Lebanese press, including some regional channels such as BBC.

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And journalists seem to be taking the documents seriously following along with the presentation carefully, which is not always the case in a lot of press conferences I’ve attended:

 

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In part two of this post, I will discuss some of the interesting facts and figures presented by activists that detail millions and possibly billions of dollars in losses to citizens as a result of these sweet deals with investors over recent years.

And here is a copy of decree 169 of 1989 if anyone would like to follow up on this case:

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Note politicians who signed this document are recorded on the bottom.

 

Activists are determined and they are meeting on a weekly basis to help protect Raouche, Dalieh Ramlet el Baida and the rest of the last stretch of Beirut coast in Zone 10 . They are also looking for all sorts of volunteers to help . You can get in touch with them by sending a message to their Facebook page.