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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.


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.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Horsh Beirut urban park, Lebanon
Location of conflict:Beirut
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 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.

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Project area:33
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,200,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:23/03/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Antoine 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 Finance InstitutionsMunicipality of Beirut from Lebanon
Egyptian Government from Egypt
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Nahnoo:
-Horsh Beirut campaign:
- Online Petition:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Proposal and development of alternatives:The 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Environmental Impact Assessment Decree no. 8633/2012
[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 for the protection of natural sites and landscapes 08/07/1939
[click to view]

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

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

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

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

Launching a petition against the projects nibbling Horsh Beirut (Legal Agenda - 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]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

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

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

Meta information
Contributor:Cynthia BouAoun, Architect - Nahnoo organisation - [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2786
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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