Since the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese Coast has been subject to privatization, and countless encroachments on public land. The Lebanese Coast that stretches to approximately 220 kilometers should be a source of wealth for Lebanon and a common space for its citizens, as well as provide a competitive advantage on the regional level. Instead, the coast is subject to constant violations along the beachfront.
In 2012, a report sent from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation to the Prime Minister’s office exposes astonishing facts about organized and protected operations to seize public beachfront property in Lebanon.
The report names former presidents, ministers and parliamentarians, as well as political parties, party officials, local chieftains, and their lackeys who carry the titles of ‘investor’ or ‘entrepreneur.’ So basically, everyone who is in charge of this country.
The report estimates the total occupied beach and sea area to be over 2,535,788 square meters, in addition to around 1,356,938 million square meters of ‘licensed’ occupations.
The so-called ‘licenses’ are based on cabinet decisions which violate the constitution and basic laws. They give particular people and organizations the right to exploit public property at the expense of the rest of society.
Despite the outrageous details provided by the ministry that has been entrusted with managing maritime property, little works have been done to ensure the integrity of the shoreline, and violations are yet to be stopped.
Now, there are no laws that prevents an individual, company or organization from owning property on the coast. And according to the Lebanese Construction Law, a 10 meters retreat of the construction is to be taken into consideration when building on a river border, since rivers are considered as public entities, but there are no laws that restrict a construction on the coast.
So why is the mandatory retreat from the coast line, that is public property, excluded from the Lebanese Construction Law?
According to the report previously mentioned, The total area occupied by illegitimate beachfront encroachments is therefore just under 5 million square meters, with a current market value of tens of billions of US dollars. In the meantime, the occupiers make hundreds of millions of US dollars a year in profit.
I will just go on a hunch and say that the people who are illegitimately building on the beachfront are politically endorsed and are making too much money with the politicians who are endorsing them, and therefore no laws are being issued to stop the illegal constructions and privatizations of the coastal area that is supposed to be a public resource for all. But that’s just me, I could be wrong.
In the picture above you can notice that the private constructions in California have retreated from the coastline, respecting the public entity that is the beach, and that is just a small part of the Californian coast.
I am not comparing the Lebanese coast with a foreign coast, don’t get me wrong, but there should be some sort of regulations towards public spaces in Lebanon, especially the Beach. Such a waste!
In recent development, a campaign against the privatization of Raouche and the adjacent area called al-Dalieh that was initially entitled “The Last That Remains” started in early 2014, and is still active today under the name “The Civil Campaign for the Protection of Daliet – el – Raouche“.
This campaign came as reaction to a rumored (but apparently true) story, that a multi-million dollar real estate construction project by Architect “Rem Koolhaas” head of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is to be built in the “Dalieh” region.
What is The “Dalieh”? – “Dalieh” is located in the “Raouche” region, facing the famous “Pigeon Rock”. It is basically the last public beach area in Beirut.
Before the area was fenced up this year, “Dalieh” was frequently visited by the public for various activities like swimming, fishing, or simply just gathering. I’ll leave all the poetic flattery for the activists to say, but I’ll say this, “Dalieh” deserves all the attention it can get, I’m glad that someone finally stood up to say enough to all the violations that are happening on the coast.
Now let’s face it, this is not the first time this has happened here in Lebanon, and it probably won’t be the last, referring here to the “Zeitouna Bay” Beirut Marina project that took away a very important part of the public sector and privatized it, to be now only visited by the higher class society. And if memory serves correctly, Steven Holl, the world-class architect, had a big part to play in it.