In Lebanon, public beaches are disappearing – Le Monde

LETTER FROM BEIRUT A wall then a fence plunging into the sea acts as a border between two worlds on the Côte de Damour, 20 kilometers south of Beirut. The asymmetry is obvious: to the south of the fence, a public beach reduced to a bare minimum and in a wild state, strewn with rubbish; to the north, a long stretch of clean sand with its row of deckchairs and bungalows, where access to the sea is paid for. “The water is the same on both sides, it is beautiful,” objects Jamal Haïdous, while his two grandchildren splash around in the summer sun on the public part. However, it was the serious economic crisis that led him here: “We can no longer afford to pay to go as before in a private establishment”, explains this man who worked in Congo until 2020. Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Lebanon, “we hope that the tourist season will last as long as possible” The economic downturn has forced bathers to change their habits. But it has not changed the face of the coast, where private operators are kings. “The coast reflects the ills of Lebanon: social inequalities, corruption, lack of transparency and governance, non-application of the law…”, lists Jad Tabet, former president of the Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut. According to the architect-urban planner, more than 80% of the 220 kilometers of coastline are privatized, between beaches and private properties concreted on the shore. The balance has never been restored since seaside resorts sprang up, in the chaos of the war (1975-1990), blocking access to the sea. Subsequently, more or less sophisticated private beaches and hotels have continued to nibble the coastline, against a backdrop of profiteering. On a private beach in Damour (Lebanon), July 30, 2022. DALIA KHAMISSY FOR “THE WORLD” Waste is piled up on a public beach, along the metal fence separating it from a private beach, in Damour (Lebanon ), July 30, 2022. DALIA KHAMISSY FOR “THE WORLD” A law from the 1960s does authorize private use of the seaside, but the permits are supposed to be exceptional, temporary, and no project must hinder the continuity of the coast – out of respect for the principle of the passage of customs officers, engraved in marble during the French mandate. “None of this is respected”, continues Mr. Tabet, who denounces the “collusion between investors and politicians” behind the privatization of the coast, as well as the “lack of will of the State to manage the coast”. In 2019, before the crisis, more than 50% of occupations of the public maritime domain were considered illegal. “Almost nothing is free anymore” In Damour, neither the young people who have come to take a dip on the public beach, nor the families who have planted their parasol there dare to go through the hole in the fence that leads to the privatized strip of land: they know they would be turned away. You have 59.9% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.