MY BEIRUT

Beirut loosing its few green square meters for a parking

Living in Beirut makes you live crazy things, among others wars, rockets, bombings, freaking street fights…and on top of this we have to witness very bad decision taken by municipalities; the removal of the FEW city parks to build a PARKING! I have never heard anything more stupid in my life.

How can concrete be more important than trees, oxygen and common space?

In Denmark, people are obliged to use their bicycles and public transportation, owning a car is a luxury, forget parking in the city, it costs a fortune. Parks are protected, taken care of, worshiped. They offer common space where the citizen from all levels interact, sunbathe, relaxes, walks, runs, gives speeches, create theater venues for kids, not mentioning the loveliest playground one can imagine (where ergonomic meets fun!).

So let’s get back to Beirut.

We have 3-4 public parks. They are not of high standard, they do not offer kids a safe environment, but they do give us a sense of civility, they give us a place to go, without offering entry fees.. they do offer oxygen and season flowers..

Yesterday; Saturday June 15, people from all Beirut gathered in the pretty garden of Jeitawi in Ashrafieh to demonstrate their anger towards the municipality of Beirut, who decided to remove the garden, build a parking and then redo the garden on top of concrete!

The more shocking part is those who are supporting the removal of the garden in order to park their stupid car…see below.

from {cycling circle LB} - no to a garden , yes to parking our BMW!

from {cycling circle LB} – no to a garden , yes to parking our BMW!

from {Tour Guide Nadine}

from {Tour Guide Nadine}

My brother whose soul is devoted to nature and green trees wrote this letter to the mayor of Beirut:

Taksim or no Taksim

An Open Letter to Beirut’s Mayor, Mr. Bilal Hamad

Dear Mayor,

We elected you.

In recent months and days, the controversial plan to transform some of Beirut’s urban parks (more like gardens) into underground parking areas has resurfaced.  With all due respect, this plan is irresponsible.  Yes Beirut and its citizens require more parking spaces but, equally, they require public transport (it’s time to scrap those dilapidated buses) and public spaces where they can meet, mingle, and breathe.  On the issue of parking areas, here is why the municipal plan should be nipped in the bud:

  1. Beirut’s trees and public gardens are in extremely short supply.  Their value is therefore priceless and infinitely superior to any urban development project. 
  2. Public gardens have a cooling effect on the surrounding streets and buildings.  The secret lies in the deep soils that soak up rainwater in winter and deflect heat in summer.  By contrast, all forms of hard surfaces, particularly concrete, will trap heat and increase ambient temperatures (the so-called heat island effect).
  3. Claiming that the garden will be restored on top of the parking is futile.  It won’t work and it won’t have the same cooling effect as a deep-rooted garden because the flow of rainwater will be interrupted.  No flower bed can replace the ecological services that public gardens provide.

In your capacity as mayor of Beirut, here is what I would do:

  1. Resolve any outstanding dispute with the (acting) governor of Beirut who unfortunately holds much of Beirut’s executive powers
  2. Disclose the cash savings that Beirut Municipality has amassed in recent years and end any further speculation on this subject matter
  3. Allocate 10% of these savings to buying or expropriating vacant private property in Beirut, and then earmark these lands for public use including underground and tower parking, as well as more gardens (the municipality should have started this process in the 1990s)
  4. Reveal the true scope of Beirut Municipality’s strategy for revamping public gardens and end the tit-for-tat announcements that make the news every few months
  5. Require an Environmental Impact Assessment of all urban development projects (incl. underground parking) which is mandatory under Decree 8633/2012 and prior to commencement of construction works
  6. Immediately allocate resources to patrol and maintain allpublic gardens in Beirut (creating many green jobs), including the pine forest, and open these gardens to the public with no discrimination.

Uprooting the trees in the Jesuit park in Geitawi, or any other park, to build an underground parking is not the answer.  It is downright wrong.  If still in doubt about the best course of action, please consider a referendum whereby the people of Beirut, your constituency, will express their opinion, and guide you.  We don’t want Geitawi to turn into a new and contentious issue (we have enough of those alas) and to further increase the ideological divide between the people of Beirut and its elected municipal council.  We want the Jesuit Park to unite us in support of 100 more Jesuit parks in Beirut.  Thank you for your consideration.

Karim El-Jisr

President of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association

I would appreciate if this letter is shared, spread and read…We need to educate people, to open their eyes, to make them understand the importance of preserving a decent living place without concrete and buildings.

Beirut is suffocating and we cannot let this happen.

For more info or to get more involved go to:

Protest against the demolition of the Jesuite Gardens

Association of the protection of the Lebanese Heritage

also read this blog by URBANstances.

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