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.
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.