Beirut is the capital of Lebanon, a small country devastated by civil war and successive occupation by neighboring countries, mainly Syria and Israel, between 1975 and 1991.
From its strategic location as port of the Mediterranean Sea, the city is the commercial and financial center of the area.
The city’s boundaries are administrative borders with no clear policies between Beirut and its surrounding municipalities: citizens of surrounding cities are using services provided by Beirut municipality that cause issues within the large metropolitan area.
Furthermore, the city suffers from human made hazards since the independence in 1943: internal and external conflicts and crises, and social conflicts. Those have arisen from the mix of different cultures and especially from the impact of refugees: 1 Million in a country population of 4M. Lebanon’s prosperity historically attracted Syrian, as workers in the construction sectors (around 300.000). Since the beginning of the crises in Syria, these workers brought their families and relatives to the country. Therefore, from the total population in Lebanon nowadays, 25% live in informal settlements and only 17% of the Syrian refugees live in settlements ad-hoc (usually referred as “urban” refugees). Palestinians are a special case: 0.5Millions living in segregated camps that defined their own mandate and developed their own security-system beyond the normal ones. The city suffers from the pressure of a high percentage of illegals that do not contribute or pay taxes, even if those are collected by national government and then redistributed to the territory.
Public services and solid waste management are operated by private sector under national control.
Local authorities depend on the Ministry of Interior, more interested in security issues than in development.
Municipality lacks of capacity of action: most services are under the responsibility of ministries, like the provision of urban basic services including the solid waste collection. As the council cannot collect taxes, there is no direct income for the city. The municipal budget comes from ministries and is allocated mainly for maintenance. For now (2015) Beirut is receiving the budget allocated for 2012.
There is a Council for Development and Reconstruction to implement key infrastructural projects. Due to the scarcity of land, real estate is very expensive (7000$/m2) and prices are still rising.
Beirut is facing natural disasters that can have heavy impacts in the city. Lebanon is cut by faults of every scale and the configuration of the city and the lack of preparedness raise the risk of earthquake’s catastrophe.
The last earthquakes happened in 2006 and 2014, however, there is no response plan in case of disasters or crises. The city envisages to have a plan on security matters. (Project in partnership with UNDP). They do not have either a planning or a housing ministry. The development of the urban plan follows the criteria of the masterplan of 1930s that considers zoning but not development.
- There are not a lot of green spaces in the city.
- Although there are some initiatives for sustainability of buildings, those do not follow a real plan.
- The city studies air qualities in partnership with a university. Air pollution is produced by traffic but mostly by generators used to provide power supply when service is disrupted (normal service around 5 to 6 hours/day).
- The Beirut Urban Resilience Master Plan has to be launched, with the support of international experts
Challenges for the city
- The border conflict with Israel.
- The absence of stable government reflected in lack of organization and lack of proper planning system (nothing has been planned since the civil war 15 years ago).
- The political issues that create a lack of legal figures like a population census.
- Lack of data in all sectors at municipality level.
- Lack of specialized staffs and experts within the municipality.