Horsh Beirut urban park, Lebanon

Horsh Beirut, the largest park of the capital, is threatened today by the ungoing construction of a field hospital inside the park. Works are totally illegal as laws and zoning regulations strictly prohibit any kind of construction.


Description

Horsh Beirut is the largest public park of Lebanon’s capital. Originally covering 1.25 million sqm of Beirut, the park’s green area is today reduced to a triangle of 330,000 sqm only after years of abuse throughout history, from cutting trees to build the ships of Crusaders and Ottomans to the planning of roads and the construction of buildings in the past decades (some of them being built illegally on public property). While the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 9 sqm of green public space per capita, in Beirut the ratio is not more than 0.8sqm. And today, despite the fact that the park is classified as a protected natural site since 1940 and is part of the general inventory of archaeological buildings and public landscapes, the municipality of Beirut recently took a serie of decisions that will lead to the destruction of its remaining green space, the latest being the construction of a military field hospital inside Horsh Beirut (plot 1925), which sparked outrage among the park’s neighbors and the civil society working on protecting public spaces.  On 9 February 2017, hundreds of people gathered in protest in front of Horsh Beirut asking the municipality to stop its nibbling policy with banners reading “Horsh Beirut is a protected natural site. Keep your projects away from it”.  The municipality of Beirut defended the project by saying that it is a temporary structure and that it is a basic need for the neighborhood, especially for Tariq El Jdideh, an underprivileged area facing the park. In an attempt of defiling the image of the campaign, it also claimed that “residents of neighborhoods around Horsh Beirut supported the construction of the hospital on the site, whereas activists against the project came from other areas”. Those claims were quickly proven wrong:  In a press conference in march 2017, the Lebanese NGO Nahnoo revealed a petition of at least 150 signatures from the neighborhood’s residents against the project as it also launched an online petition that has received 1304 signatures since, and that would be presented to Beirut municipality after they exceed 2000 signatures. Nahnoo explained that the civil society is not against the hospital project but is against the site chosen for it as the construction of the hospital which already started on the park is illegal because Horsh Beirut is classified zone 9 non-aedificandi which means construction is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, history proved that in Lebanon nothing is temporary. In fact, while the municipality argues that the site where the construction takes place is a parking lot and that no trees would be cut, the initial master plan for Horsh Beirut as designed by “Ile-de-France” shows that the municipality was responsible of planting this area and that the parking was meant to be temporary. On the other hand, the hospital cost estimated to 1.2 million dollars for a simple hangar is not only overpriced, but will be spent from the municipality’s budget, the Egyptian grant being only medicines and staff. Instead, this budget could be spent on upgrading other hospitals of the same area such as the Barbir hospital.  Following other demonstrations, the municipality of Beirut freezed the construction but due to political pressures, it came back on the decision only a week later (with 9 votes against the hospital v/s 13 in favor), allowing the site works to continue.

See more...
Basic Data
NameHorsh Beirut urban park, 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)Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Urban development conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe construction of the “Egyptian field-hospital” started inside Horsh Beirut on Qasqas side (facing Tarik el Jdideh neighborhood) following the municipal decision No.170 on 23 March 2016 despite the objection of many members of the municipal council.

The construction project is illegal for many reasons: First, Zoning laws and regulations of zone 9 (non aedificandi) do not allow any type of construction, not even temporary which means that any permit given in this area is totally illegal. This makes the municipality’s decision scandalous since it is its responsibility to verify that construction permits abide by the laws and it is her duty to protect public spaces from any kinds of infringements. Furthermore, the park which is a public property classified as natural heritage since 1940 is also classified by the National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territory (SDATL, approved by decree 2366/2009) as a regional green park for Beirut and its suburbs, a recommendation that the municipality of Beirut didn’t respect even though article 2 of the same decree clearly states that “Municipalities, unions of municipalities, ministries and public institutions must abide by the Master Plan’s recommendations in any decision or project related to urban planning and land development”. Also, Horsh Beirut is protected by the law 558/96 (known as forests law) that prohibits any kind of exploitation of forests and municipal parks (machâa). On the other hand, the construction takes place today on a site that is different from the one mentioned on the permit file which was granted despite the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required by the Environment Law 444 and decree 8633/2012, and without the approval of the Ministry of Public Health. This is why, on 22 March 2017, minister of Health Ghassan Hasbani addressed an official letter to Governor Ziad Chbib asking to stop immediately the site works of the hospital because the project didn’t get the required permits from the ministry as per decree 9826/1962. Nonetheless, construction is still ungoing.

After many demonstrations pressuring Beirut municipality, the Governor and the Minister of Interior to stop the project and change the location of the hospital, Nahnoo filed a law suit in April 2017 at the Shura Council (the highest court in Lebanon) against both the municipality and the governor in order to put an end to the illegal construction.

On the other hand, the Egyptian field hospital is not the only project threatening Horsh Beirut today. In fact, the municipality took other decisions that will reduce even more the remaining green area, all in contradiction with the zoning regulations and urban laws stated above:

- The decision 327 taken on 5 May 2015 and approved by the current municipal council that implies the change of a part of plot no.1925 (Horsh Beirut) from zone 9 non aedificandi to zone 4 (Ground exploitation ratio = 50% and Total exploitation ratio = 3.5) in order to regulate the state of an illegal building belonging to the Islamic scouts (Kachaf Al Risala Al Islamiya). The affected area is 3630 sqm and with the proposed new ratios, it allows a high-rise building on Horsh Beirut opening the way to more investments and land speculations. Not to mention that it is against all principles of urban planning and placemaking: Instead of punishing the infringement on public property, the municipal council rewards the violator with extra exploitation on a property he does not own. And instead of having a strategic vision for the development of the city where parks and public spaces are a major concern, planning regulations are tailored following investors’ greed and political interests.

- Also, the decision of moving the football stadium from Tarik El Jdideh to Horsh Beirut was approved by the council of ministers: Decision No.62 on 18-12-2014 approves the construction of a new football stadium following international standards with parkings and all technical areas needed for regional and national football stadiums. This means of course more nibbling of Horsh Beirut and a total destruction of the remaining green area.
Project Area (in hectares)33
Level of Investment (in USD)1,200,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date23/03/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesAntoine N Makhlouf Est. For Trading & Contracting s.a.l (مؤسسة أنطوان مخلوف للتجارة والمقاولات ش.م.ل ) from Lebanon - Execution of site works (approved by municipal decision 171/2016)
Relevant government actors- The municipality of Beirut

- The governor of Beirut

- The ministry of interior

- The ministry of Environment

- The ministry of public health

- The Egyptian embassy in Lebanon

- Egyptian Government
International and Financial InstitutionsMunicipality of Beirut from Lebanon
Egyptian Government from Egypt
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters- Nahnoo:

www.nahnoo.org

www.facebook.com/nahnoo.org/

-Horsh Beirut campaign:

https://www.facebook.com/HorshBeirut/

- Online Petition:

https://secure.avaaz.org/ar/petition/bldy_byrwt_wqfw_sys_wmshry_qDm_Hrsh_byrwt/?pv=17
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
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, 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), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (undecided)
Development of AlternativesThe campaign against the construction of the hospital inside Horsh Beirut proposed other alternatives to fulfill the needs of providing health care to the neighborhood without destroying the park. In fact, Tarik el jdideh neighborhood has already dispensaries and health care centers which are closed today, as well as the Barbir Hospital that is also closed. Nahnoo objected the location of the Egyptian-funded hospital and asked that the 1.2 million dollars budget reserved for the new construction would be used to reopen and upgrade the existing community equipments. It also proposed that the municipality of Beirut expropriate the Barbir hospital and use the funds to reactivate it as a proper municipal hospital.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The campaign was partly effective because it succeeded in raising mobilization against the project from the civil society and the neighbors. As a result, Beirut municipality modified her original plans for the hospital: instead of a 3 storeys permanent building (in reinforced concrete) the project under construction today is a temporary one (according to the municipal council's announcement) with only one floor and a light metallic structure (hangar).

Also, in addition to the petition that gathered over 1000 signatures to date, the neighbors of the park formed a neighborhood council and lobbied with Nahnoo organization to present a law suit against the project. The Shura council didn't pronounce its court decision yet, and thus, even though the construction is still ungoing, it is too early to announce failure or success
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Law for the protection of natural sites and landscapes 08/07/1939
[click to view]

Environmental Impact Assessment Decree no. 8633/2012
[click to view]

National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territory , decree 2366/2009
[click to view]

Environment law no. 444/2002
[click to view]

National Physical Master Plan of the Lebanese Territory study (final report 2005)
[click to view]

Beirut zoning map - 1954

Law no. 558/1996 for the protection of forests and municipal parks and natural sites

Links

Protesters rallying against Horsh Beirut hospital project met with violence (The Dailystar newspaper)
[click to view]

1.2 million dollars for building a field hospital in Horsh Beirut (Al-akhbar newspaper - in arabic)
[click to view]

From 1.250.000 sqm to 330.000 sqm: Beirut municipal council goes on with the nibbling policy of Horsh Beirut (Al-Akhbar newspaper - in arabic)
[click to view]

Launching a petition against the projects nibbling Horsh Beirut (Legal Agenda - in arabic)
[click to view]

Media Links

Nahnoo press conference (part 2)
[click to view]

Demonstration against the hospital project in front of Beirut municipality
[click to view]

Animated illustration showing the evolution of Horsh Beirut green area over the years
[click to view]

Nahnoo organisation's statement regarding the 3 municipal decisions for projects inside Horsh Beirut prior to the municipal council meeting and voting session regarding the approval of the hospital's construction.
[click to view]

Nahnoo organisation's press conference regarding the construction of the field hospital inside Horsh Beirut and the launching of the petition (part 1)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Horsh Beirut Horsh Beirut is the largest public park in the city
[click to view]

hospital site works The construction of the field hospital goes on inside Horsh Beirut despite the decision of the ministry of public health to stop the works
[click to view]

Beirut zoning regulations Zoning regulations (as per 1954) showing that zone 9 (Horsh Beirut) prohibits any kind of construction

(Source: Fadi Shayya, At the edge of the city, 2010)

https://attheedgeofthecity.wordpress.com/infographics/
[click to view]

Demonstration 9 february 2017 Demonstration in front of Horsh Beirut on 9 February 2017
[click to view]

Beirut Zoning map Beirut Zoning map showing that Horsh Beirut area is classified zone 9 non aedificandi

(source: Fadi Shayya, At the Edge of the city, 2010)

https://attheedgeofthecity.wordpress.com/infographics/
[click to view]

Demonstration banner: stop nibbling Horsh Beirut Banner reading Stop your nibbling policy of Horsh Beirut
[click to view]

Hospital location The yellow square is the location of the hospital as approved on the permit file whereas the red square shows the location of the actual site works today, another infringement in this case. The picture shows that the construction is inside Horsh Beirut (fence marked in orange) contrary to the municipality's claims that no construction is happening inside the park.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCynthia BouAoun, Architect - Nahnoo organisation - [email protected]
Last update29/04/2017
Comments