By Simona Sikimic
Thursday, December 16, 2010
BEIRUT: The public must play a greater role in city planning if instances of over-urbanization and disjointed construction are to be controlled, a collection of experts said Tuesday.
The various ways civil society and residents can legally get involved in city planning have now been outlined in a booklet, “Promoting Public Participation in Urban Planning Practices,” which will be distributed to national municipalities, NGOs and government departments this week.
Written over the last two years by researchers from the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), University de Balamand, and NGO AmidEast, the pamphlet sets out the legal inconsistencies in current laws and how they can be improved or sidelined.
“We began the project by wanting to amend the provisions of the 1983 law [which set up the Directorate General of Urban Planning (DGUP) that technically and financially commandeers urban planning policies],” said LTA researcher Atallah al-Salim. “But we soon realized that the legislative process in Lebanon is long and slow and therefore shifted our approach to improve consultation over Master Plans and zoning regions.”
Existing national Master Plans designate what an area should predominantly be used for and whether land should be used for residential, industrial or agricultural use. But these guidelines are often ignored or not enforced by municipalities or central government, pamphlet authors said.
Corruption at the local and national level and the large-scale paralysis of municipalities that remain dominated by political interests makes any kind of sustainable or environmentally viable planning extremely difficult, the NGO said.
“This is why we are advocating for involving local residents, because they are the ones that know what their cities and villages need, and what they don’t need,” said Salim. “Just think how different the Gemmayzeh issue would be if residents had been consulted?”
Gemmayzeh residents recently staged a series of protests against a large number of bars that have opened in the previously quiet area. – Simona Sikimic