This week, a beach cleaning campaign was launched targeting Al Zira, a small island off the coast of Sidon. The campaign was initiated by the newly formed organization “Friends of Al Zira and Sidon’s Beach”. The first stage of campaign consists of cleaning the trash, fixing umbrellas, distributing waste containers and marking a swimming zone (boat free area). The later stages will include more permanent fixtures such as hiring a staff to maintain the beach, build restrooms and changing rooms and fix the island’s infrastructure. Sidon has recently witnessed several environmental projects; last month a series of initiatives took place to make Sidon an environmentally-friendly city by 2020.
Cleanup activities are common in Lebanon. Four years ago, several campaigns were launched throughout the country. While positive, they are only conducted sporadically and cannot guarantee sustainably clean beaches. There are many areas along the Lebanese shorelines that are filled with trash. What makes the Al Zira case different from previous campaigns is that it is done in collaboration with the community and civil society. To ensure government support, Friends of Al Zira is also cooperating with Sidon Municipality and the General Directorate for Marine Transport.
There are several campaigns targeting the myriad of Lebanon’s environmental problems. Last year, activists launched a support Dalieh campaign in response to the potential closure of the site as a public space. Among the many activities undertaken for this campaign was an international design competition to offer alternative public uses for the Dalieh coast. Activists rallied against the controversial Janna dam project. Many of the activists confronted government representatives and project designers during the public session of Environmental Impact Assessment. Other campaigns target an entire city and not just an area such as the Beirut Green Project which advocates the importance of green spaces in the highly congested urban area.
It is almost impossible to assess the impact of such initiatives and campaigns as there many influencing factors to take into account. Obviously, many of these campaigns fail: The Janna dam is still being built despite legitimate arguments that oppose it and while the Dalieh campaign can boast some victories, the site is still in danger of being fully privatized. The campaign in Sidon is promising since there is a city wide push for more sustainable practices. Hopefully, this beach cleanup campaign will have a continuous positive impact.