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Ramlet El Bayda beach on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Photo: Firas BouZeineddine / Facebook
The people of Beirut were shocked this Saturday, Nov. 12, when images of the city's last public beach, Ramlet El Bayda, began circulating on social media, showing the site being destroyed by heavy construction equipment.
The first footage wasfilmedby Lebanese activist Joumana Talhouk, who uploaded the video to Facebook:
The controversy over the ownership of Ramlet El Bayda first made news headlinesback in 2012,and has since been at the center of a tug-of-war between activists, on the one hand, and real estate developers and officials, on the other.
InJune 2016, government officials denied any speculation about the closure of the beach for real-estate-development purposes, after some of the installations were destroyed by excavators.
Ziad Chebib, the governor of Beirut, hadsaid:
The Ramlet El Bayda public beach will not be closed and any form of restricting citizens from accessing the shores, be it for constructional purposes or by erecting fences to close off the area is strictly prohibited.
In this case, activists have the law on their side. Indeed,“Article 2 of Order 144,” the lawregulating coastalproperties in Lebanon since 1925, stipulates that the seashore until the farthest area reached by the waves during winter as well as sand and rocky shores are considered public property.
But despite this law,decree changes and loopholeshave allowed more and more development to happen on the Lebanese coast.
This is not the first case of coastal development in Lebanon happening at the expense of public property. Just recently, activists heldprotestsagainst the government’s plans to transformKfarabida’s rocky beachin the Batroun district in Northern Lebanon to yet another Yacht Club.
The legality of this project has also been the subject of much controversy, as many rules are being bent by using ministerial decrees to get the project approved. Six months earlier, the issue of theAdlounbeach in South Lebanon was raised by local media outlets. It was reported that the natural coast was being destroyed in order to be replaced by a port worth26.6 million USDand erasing, in the process, a Phoenician port site of high cultural and archeological value. The excavations began with no proper environmental impact assessment prompting a conflict between the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministries of Environment and Culture.
Ramlet El Bayda: The Latest Casualty of State Corruption
It is in this context that we should see the case of Ramlet El Bayda.
The real estate company assigned to develop its project is calledAchour Development.Founded in 1991,Achour Developmentwill be developing its “Eden Rock Resort” on the Ramlet El Bayda beach. The company have developed projects all over Beirut ranging from residential to industrial complexes. TheEden Rock Resort’s status is currently “Under Construction” and is composed of 110 and 53 cabins all of which are located by the beach, as described by the company’s website.
This is a photo of the beach in 2011:
Source:Le Coeur A Droite
And this is what it will look like:
Screenshot fromAchoura Developmentwebsite
Needless to say, many are unhappy with these latest developments.
Aprotest was plannedfor Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. On the event page, the description reads:
Meanwhile, many Lebanese have taken to social media to express their outrage.
Two Lebanese activists, Firas Bouzeineddine and Whard Sleiman, were at the site on Sunday morning, while the media's attention was focused on the Beirut Marathon.