Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Beirut Report

One of the last open spaces in Verdun, which is already crowded with shopping centers, will be cleared for yet another ABC mall.
 in his The Beirut Report posted this February 7, 2014

Rare Verdun greenery cleared for another mall

Photo: Qaph blog
Have a good look at those trees– they’ll be gone soon, if not already dumped somewhere.  Construction has already started according to fellow blogger Gino, who posted this picture today:
Photo: Gino’s Blog
For years the site had been gated, but the gate seemed rather old.
Here is a picture posted by blogger Qaph, who was the first to break the story earlier this month:
In his post, Qaph wrote that the site was formerly the grounds of a St. Joseph school, and judging by the sandstone, it was probably quite old. So why was it demolished? And who sold it to developers?
I had driven by the lot for years but paid little attention to it until I heard Abir Saksouk-Sasso‘s talk about the lack of public space in Beirut at the DiverseCities conference earlier this year.
Saksouk-Sasso, who is part of the amazing performance activism group Dictaphone, argued that despite state efforts to control and limit public spaces, the public has appropriated “left over spaces” and one of these was the Verdun plot.
So why couldn’t the state or the municipality of Beirut (which has an estimated wealth of near $1 billion) save one plot for its citizens?
Photo: Skyscraper City
Plans to build a park were once announced by late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri–at least according to Qaph’s post.
But ironically those leading the mall project are Hariri-owned companies. Did the late prime minister change his mind?
First announced in 2005, the mall complex was to be built by Hariri son Bahaa’s firm, Horizon and Kipco, which is largely owned by the Kuwaiti royal family. Here is the initial press in early 2005:
Photo: Skyscraper city

But those plans, which included a hotel/residential tower and cineplex, have changed markedly over the years. From 2005:

Photo: Skyscraper city

To 2008, where the tower seems to have been reduced significantly, according to this picture posted on Skyscraper city, which still exists on the Horizon website: To no towers at all in 2013, according to this rendering published by Beirut.com early last year:

According to a piece in business magazine Lebanon Opportunities, the Kuwaitis are apparently out, and are now replaced it seems by Lebanon’s ABC group at a 40% share.
Meanwhile Hariri’s son Bahaa has switched from Horizon to his other construction company, Verdun 1544 Holding. The project is reportedly worth $200 million.
Do all the changes indicate a decrease or renegotiation in capital or relationships?
One thing is for sure, no company in this eco-system represented Beirut residents’ rights to green spaces or the fate of these trees, which are all probably firewood by now.

Policeman in Beirut: Photography is “illegal” in Hamra?

Are the latest car explosions and threats to “leaders” launching the security forces into a period of tight control over whatever might be considered as intelligence gathering by the various factions (internally and externally:?

posted in The Beirut Report this January 30, 2014

A few minutes ago I was taking this picture when a policeman shouted at me.Cop: “Hey, stop, stop! What are you doing? Don’t you know photography is forbidden?”Me: [Pointing to intersection] “Photography is forbidden here?”

Cop: [Looking exasperated] “Of course. It is illegal to take photos, not just here, anywhere in Hamra! Even anywhere in Beirut!”

Me: Are you serious? What does it matter if I take a picture?Cop: Yes of course I am serious! Don’t you know about the terrorism? I can call this in and they will come here and pick you up and take you away. There is a jail sentence!Me: Is this a new law, what law is it?

Cop: Yes. It’s a law, I don’t know what it is called! I didn’t say anything after the first or second photo, but then you took two or three! But you seemed like a nice guy so I will let it slide. Just don’t take any more, okay?

Me: Do you know what you are saying? Do you know how many people you need to arrest to enforce this law? Do you know how many buses you need to arrest everyone taking photos today in Hamra or the rest of Beirut?”

Suddenly our conversation is interrupted by a loud police siren.

A big black suburban with black tinted windows comes careening into the intersection in front of us and hangs a left onto Hamra street. Inside are two college-aged boys. The license plate has only three numbers.Me: Why don’t you arrest those people? They are not police, they are kids and they have a police siren?Cop: [wry smile] Oh no, I can’t touch them. Every number in 600 (i.e. 600-699) belongs to Berri. (Chairman of the Parliament for over 3 decades.)

(The plate actually began with number 1)

I then point to a car with no tail lights, a motorcyclist without a helmet, the traffic lights around us, each one illegally festooned with a flag of a certain Lebanese political party that has claimed this intersection as its territory. See red circles:

Interrupted panorama shot. I couldn’t get a better one because of the new “law” against photography

Me: So all this illegal stuff is going on right in front of you, every minute, and you want to stop me for taking a picture of it?

Cop: Listen. [Pulls out tiny folded up piece of paper from his pocket] You see this? It says here my duty today is “traffic management.” I can’t issue tickets until after this shift is over tonight.

(I didn’t think of it at the time, but why then was he trying to arrest me if technically he had no right?)

Cop: Let me tell you a story. Once I stopped this guy who was harassing a woman. He was Syrian, he had no ID papers. I got a phone call from headquarters. They said release him immediately. You see people have “waasta” (connections), there are people you can’t touch.”

I bid the cop farewell, wishing him more success at his job in the future.

Postscript:

Of course, I have been harassed for taking photos before, but ironically the police once actually tried but failed to help.

I’ve also been physical assaulted for taking photos, not by authorities, but by private developers and political hooligans.
Flags are also routinely hung by all parties in Lebanon as I documented in ZalkaAin El MreiseAin El Remmaneh and elsewhere. But this is the first time I am told there is an actual “law” prohibiting photos on public streets.  

Brown spills, sewage dump…: Beirut, Na3meh, Khaldeh…

For over 15 years, Sukleen (one of the Hariri clan company) has been renewing its contract with the government without bidding procedures and used open air dumps for its garbage collection enterprise.

Sukleen has been charging the municipalities $140 a ton of garbage and paid directly from the municipality fund (like taxes on payrolls), while the few private providers allowed to work and independent municipalities with their own system are paying $40 a ton.

Saida had amassed a hill of garbage and the municipality is fooling us that this hill will become a green garden for the citizens, eventually.  With potential perspectives and architectural plans… to back it up.

In Na3meh, the people have been suffering from increased cancer problems, living in an environment of constant stench. They endeavored to sit-in and prevent any more trucks to empty garbage.  The government has again promised to resolve this problem within two years...

Brown spills of Khalde

It’s a nasty sewage dump- mainly flowing from southern Beirut, Khaldeh and the suburbs like Aramoun/Bchamoun/Choueifat…

Noticed most of your recent posts have to do with that short trip you took to Jordan- best way to learn about Lebanon is to leave it for a few days every couple of weeks- refreshes your perspective

In addition to the landfill crisis on Beirut’s streets–covered on this blog yesterday— there appears to be a heavy dose of brown stuff spewing into the Mediterranean near Beirut Airport, as seen in these pictures I took a couple of days ago.
You can see the runway at the top right. And the output point appears to be near a sea resort near Khalde, a few hundred meters before the Ouzai tunnel running underneath the tarmac.
Zooming in on the same area in Google Maps, the brown substance appears to come from very close to this resort, near a green area, before being flushed out to sea via a short canal:
Zoom out and you can see the extent of the damage across the coastline:

But these satellite images could be quite dated– in some parts of Beirut I have noticed Google earth images to be 2-3 years old.

Judging by my current airplane window shots, could this mean that the slime has been pumped out constantly for 3 years or even much longer?
No wonder Sidon and Khalde are not safe places to swim.

En reponse a M Nehmat Frem ce soir sur telelumiere qui a specule qu'uniquement 15% des libanais seraient capables de trier leurs dechets, j'aimerais preciser qu'entre les annees 1996 et 1998 les habitants de Bsharri furent les habitants du premier village au Liban a trier leurs dechets a la source (c.a.d chacun dans sa maison). En effet environ 80 % des habitants avaient participe au tri des dechets organise par le Comite de Sauvergarde de l'Environnement de Bsharri, projet que la municipalite de Bsharri avait malheureusement refuse de reprendre lors de sa reprise de pouvoir en 1998. Avec de la bonne volonte, de la patience et du courage, rien n'est impossible M. Frem.
In response to Ne3mat Frem who speculated that only 15% of Lebanese (meaning municipalities, baladiyat?) are able to sort out their garbage… I would like to remind M Frem that between 1996-98 the citizens of the town of Bsharreh were the first to sort out their garbage at the source, their homes.
Indeed, 80% of the inhabitants participated in the project Safeguarding the Environment Committee. Unfortunately, the next municipality refused to take up that project.
With will, patience and courage, nothing is impossible.
The French text posted by Habib Rahmet:
En reponse a M Nehmat Frem ce soir sur telelumiere qui a specule qu’uniquement 15% des libanais seraient capables de trier leurs dechets, j’aimerais preciser qu’entre les annees 1996 et 1998 les habitants de Bsharri furent les habitants du premier village au Liban a trier leurs dechets a la source (c.a.d chacun dans sa maison). En effet environ 80 % des habitants avaient participe au tri des dechets organise par le Comite de Sauvergarde de l’Environnement de Bsharri, projet que la municipalite de Bsharri avait malheureusement refuse de reprendre lors de sa reprise de pouvoir en 1998. Avec de la bonne volonte, de la patience et du courage, rien n’est impossible M. Frem.

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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