Ramlet el Bayda, Lebanon

The Ramlet el Bayda beach located on the seashore of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is threatened by the ongoing privatization of most of the capital’s publicly used spaces, started during the chaos of the Lebanese Civil War.


Description

On the 18 October, 2016, an image circulated widely on social media showing that construction had started on Ramlet el Bayda public beach in Beirut, which sparked outrage among civil society in Lebanon working on protecting public spaces. The project is to build a private resort, Eden Rock Resort, on a plot of land to the south of Ramlet el Bayda, being illegally developed by Wissam Ali Achour through his real estate company, Achour Holding SAL. Of the entire shoreline of the capital, Ramlet el Bayda and Dalieh remain the last two open access spaces frequented by the poorer classes of Beirut, the rest of which has been illegally privatized and fenced off from the public. Anger at this project is not created in a vacuum, but is in reaction to the context of decreasing green and public spaces in Beirut, lack of basic services such as electricity and water, as well as an ongoing waste management crisis.

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Basic Data
NameRamlet el Bayda, Lebanon
CountryLebanon
SiteBeirut
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Urban development conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Eden Bay Resort, being developed by Achour Development, consists of 110 chalets and 53 cabins, as advertised on the company website. The plots on which development is ongoing are numbered 3689, 3690, 3691, and 3692 on the Southern end of Ramlet el Bayda. These four plots, similar to the rest of the coast of Beirut, were historically owned by various Beiruti families, but the beach was always publically used. It was protected by Article 2 of Order 144 established in 1925 during the French mandate, which declares that the beach, defined as the farthest high-water point on the beach, is public property. The public nature of the space is evident in the urban master plan established by the French in the late 1940s, where zoning codes designated the area between the road and the sea as public and prohibited any construction that would interfere with the continuity of the Beirut coast. In 1949, the big sandy plot which was the sandy beach of Ramlet el Bayda, designated as plot 2230, was partitioned in 54 parts, and the four plots being currently developed were eventually purchased by Eden Rock in the 70s, where the Agha family holds the majority of shares. The area between the newly constructed public road at the time and the sea, although privately owned, was classified as “non-aedificandi”, meaning construction on it is prohibited, except for temporary structures with a very low exploitation factor, making it impossible to develop a profitable project on the site. Records show that Wissam Achour started purchasing plots on Ramlet el Bayda starting 2011. [3]

Today, the project is shrouded in controversy. Achour Development is claiming that the plots he is currently developing on do not fall within public maritime domain and are legally classified as private property because they are not sandy and because their elevation is too high for them to fall within public maritime domain. In parallel, and to the frustration of activists, governmental bodies are claiming that the development is not on the public beach, referring to the space used by citizens to swim, the plots of which are owned by Hariri. Meanwhile, activists and researchers are referring to maps from the 50s and 60s which clearly show that the land is indeed sandy and reached by the waves, and that human landfilling activity is what has caused the elevation, adding that indeed around 40% of these plots in total is within public property, making the rest of the plot too small for any sort of development. The public nature of plots is also shown in aerial maps from the 60s, where the corniche wall dividing public and private property is evident, and this wall clearly cuts through plot 3689. Moreover, two of these plots (3691 and 3692) were marked as non-developable according to building laws, and these marks have mysteriously disappeared from current cadastral maps. Notably, there is no EIA conducted for this project. There was an EIA done for a bigger project, but due to technical and financial reasons that project was discontinued, although it received a permit, as well as two exceptional decrees. Achour did receive an exceptional permit for this particular project, but activists are claiming this permit is illegal, and the municipality of Beirut is stalling making the permit accessible to activists. In addition, such a project needs a permit from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, since it involves transporting large quantities of sand from the plots, and such a permit does not exist. Activists also claim that someone within the DGU was bribed into classifying these plots as rocky and not sandy. Based on these arguments, as well as many other complications and confusions around the project, experts within the movement are demanding from the Governor of Beirut to stop the project until these issues are clarified, as well as from the Ministry of Public works and Transport to clearly draw out the borders of public Maritime Domain.

The relevant decrees concerning the regulation of public maritime domain in Lebanon is explained in this booklet written by architect Abir Saksouk and published by the Dictaphone Group. However, the exploitation of Decree 4810 of 1966, which permits a very low exploitation of coastal properties on Zone 10 (inclusive of Ramlet el Bayda) is important to highlight, as its violation has led to the private exploitation of the seafront and is a clear illustration that the State in Lebanon protects the interests of the rich elite and of capital rather than the interests and needs of the public. For example, this Decree was abolished by Decree 169 of 1989, established illegally during the civil war, the effects of which is illustrated nicely in this video by the Legal Agenda.
Project Area (in hectares)0.5188
Level of Investment (in USD)Unclear
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected PopulationUnclear
Start Date10/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesAchour Development from Lebanon
Relevant government actorsThe Governor and Municipality of Beirut

Ministry of Environment

Ministry of Public Works and Transport

Directorate General of Urban Planning (DGU)

Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDR)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNAHNOO: http://www.nahnoo.org

Greenline: http://greenline.me.uk

Social Justice and the City program at IFI: https://www.aub.edu.lb/ifi/programs/social_justice/Pages/sj_city.aspx

Beirut Madinati: http://beirutmadinati.com/about-beirut-madinati/?lang=en

Beirut Madinati:http://beirutmadinati.com/?lang=en

We Want Accountability: https://www.facebook.com/BadnaNhaseb/?fref=ts

Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh: http://dalieh.org

Citizens Within A State: https://www.facebook.com/mmfidawla/

Legal Agenda: http://www.legal-agenda.com
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherLoss of public access
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesRecognize the right to access public spaces, including seashore
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Some activists consider the campaign successful so far, while others disagree. There seems to be an agreement that it has succeeded in driving the subject forward and increasing knowledge among citizens that public spaces are shrinking in Beirut. However, the campaign is not large enough yet, and not enough people have been mobilised. The issue is very complicated and activists are struggling to frame it in a simple way to be able to mobilise more people. Most activists agree that they can only claim they have been successful if they manage to stop the project.
Sources and Materials
Links

Pollution on Ramlet el Bayda
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Minister of Public Works and Transport promises that Ramlet el Bayda will remain public
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Article detailing the violations on Ramlet el Bayda
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Greenline's response to the Governor of Beirut
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Beirut Begins Destroying the City’s Last Public Beach
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Response of the civil coalition of NGOs to the governor of Beirut
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Important article detailing the violations that led to privatization and building permits on Ramlet el Bayda
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Theft of coastal sands from Ramlet el Bayda
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Excavators destroy the stairway leading to the beach
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An article critiquing civil society
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Beirut Report: Beirut’s stolen coast and the growing fight to get it back
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The Governor of Beirut protects private property over public interest
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Plans of the project by Achour Development
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[1] Officials rule out the closure of Ramlet el Bayda Public Beach
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[2] Dr Mona Fawaz on the inconsistencies of the case of Ramlet el Bayda
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[3] How developers are positioning themselves along Beirut’s western waterfront
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Eden Rock Project is launched, with the full support of the Ministry of Tourism
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Ali Darwich of Greenline on the criminalization of activists
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Report on the earlier protests on Ramlet el Bayda through a campaign entitled الشط للسباحة مش للاستباحة
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Media Links

Picnic day organized by NAHNOO on Ramlet el Bayda
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Music and bonfire at Ramlet el Bayda
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Video by the Legal Agenda on the Destruction of the Lebanese coast and theft of public property
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Video by Beirut Marinate showing the violations of the project
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Architect Mona Hallak on Zone 10 in Beirut
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Video by NAHNOO showing how most of Beirut's coast became privatized
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Other Documents

Widely circulated photo showing the start of construction at Ramlet el Bayda
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Map from 1956 showing the plot 3689 was under the sea
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The Governor of Beirut orders stopping the project and allows it to continue a few months after
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GDU forbids construction on plot 3689
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Map showing plot 2230 before partition
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Recent map of Ramlet el Bayda
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A banner from the most recent protest on Ramlet el Bayda
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Picture from the construction site
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Picture from the construction site
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A picture from earlier protests
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Protestors are met with riot police on the public road
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Riot police by the river of sewage
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Meta Information
ContributorCatherine Moughalian, The Asfari Institute, [email protected]
Last update05/12/2016
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