Another legal environmental win for Lebanon

Image result for ramlet bayda beach eden rock lebanon

Source: Firas Bou Zeineddine/Facebook

Yesterday, the Shura Council ordered a temporary one month stop to the construction of a resort on the Rablet El Baida Beach in Beirut. This case was brought to the Council by Green Line Association and the Legal Agenda on November 11, 2016. The plaintiff’s case was based on the lack of adherence to land and environmental regulations, misrepresentation of information to the Higher Council of Urban Planning, and the citizen’s right to the sea.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Law (Decree 8633/2012) is one of the violations brought forth by the plaintiffs. No EIA was undertaken prior to the construction activities; this not only infringes the EIA decree but also undermines the Ministry of Environment’s mandate to protect the environment. Annex 2 of this decree explicitly states that tourist projects require an environmental study.

The prospective project, Eden Bay Resort, is meant to span 5,188 square meters along Beirut’s southern coastline (Msaybte/3689 plot of land). The project consists of a number of chalets and cabins that have direct access to the sea.

The Council’s order halts construction for one month and requires the government to investigate the violations and obliges the construction company to cooperate with the investigation and submit a response by the end of the month.

The Shura Council’s order is an important instance of effective oversight that needs to be widespread at every level of the Lebanese government. The closing of the Costa Brava landfill order by the Lebanese judiciary is another case of this much needed oversight. This  will ensure the proper implementation of laws and reduces abuse of power that has been rampant throughout the country at the expense of its citizens. For example, a Ministry of Public Works and Transport investigation in 2012 found that more than half of the 4,901,726 square meters of coastal property across Lebanon is illegal and unlicensed. While the Shura Council’s order does not undo all these violations, it is an important first step in fighting this problem and will hopefully pave the way for more successful cases.

This is not the first time that a building permit was given without conducting an EIA that was clearly required. None of the landfills currently being built in Beirut have undergone an EIA, and the EIA for Jenna Dam was prepared after construction had already commenced. If this trend continues, the EIA decree will eventually become obsolete, even though it has been adopted less than five years ago.

The Shura Council order is not final and the resort owners will probably fight it to the end. However, this order does highlight the importance of environmental regulations and will hopefully result in the proper implementation of the EIA decree.

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