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A Strong Urbanization Thrust

p. 68-69

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1Urbanization, which can only be grasped in Lebanon by using satellite imagery because of a lack of recent statistical data, has almost doubled over the past 20 years. It is concentrated in the central region, but the growth of urban areas has also been significant in the peripheral areas, often in low-density forms, along transport corridors, as observed in the North of the country, from Tripoli to Halba.

2The analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery constitutes the most appropriate source to study urbanization. The NCSR-Lebanon has made a systematic assessment for the years 1994, 2005 and 2013. On a national scale, built-up and urbanized areas have grown by 80%, from 472 to 858 sq. km, covering 8% of the territory. Apart from Beirut, where the administrative unit covers the whole urban area, the proportion of built-up areas is the highest in Mount Lebanon, followed by the muhafazat located in the South of the country (9 and 10%). North Bekaa remains the least urbanized region.

3Across the country, the 1994-2005 period was the most intensive in terms of construction, which attests the favorable context of the reconstruction years, when the inflow of private funds was encouraged by the development of road infrastructure.

4Urban growth remained significant in the following period, especially in the peripheral regions. Akkar and Minieh-Denniyeh, as well as the Nabatiyeh-Saida axis, have experienced a strong dynamism in this regard. However, in every part of the country, urbanization was more limited in the 2005-2013 period than before, even in the South and the area surrounding Nabatiyeh where post-2006 reconstruction projects have proliferated.

Figure IV-2: Urban areas in Lebanon by muhafazat (1994-2013)


Figure IV-3: Urban areas and urban growth (1994-2013)


5Taking into account altitude thresholds helps one relativize the idea that the mountains may be invaded by urbanization. More than 50% of the urban areas are located under 500 m and this proportion has not changed much over the period. 30% of the urban areas are located between 500 and 1,000 m and 18% above 1,000 m. Moreover, by definition, the Bekaa Valley is entirely located within these thresholds.

6Figure IV-4: Urban areas by altitude threshold (1994-2013)

7The analysis of satellite imagery shows precisely the new forms of urbanization in the North of the country, which is one of the most dynamic regions, even though it is marked by growing poverty. The urban area of Tripoli is experiencing a continuous spatial extension, with the urbanization of the western gardens and many olive plantations located in the eastern and southern suburbs, and the densification of the central area. This goes along with intense suburban urbanization. Around Zghorta in the South-East, Koura in the South and along the south-western coastline, it is mostly taking place along road trunks. Around Minieh and Halba, urban growth is characterized by horizontal densification in existing villages and towns, and leapfrog development in the agricultural areas. This form of growth can also be found in small hills and mountainous areas. This shows the lack of regulation regarding construction and the strong local demographic pressure, while migration to Tripoli has been hindered by the absence of employment opportunities and high land prices. This low-density urbanization changes the organization of rural spaces and leads to the occupation of agricultural land, the productivity of which is too low to prevent their transformation into built-up areas.

Figure IV-5: Urbanization from Tripoli to Halba


Figure IV-6: Urban sprawl in the suburbs of Tripoli (source: Koura, É. Verdeil, 2009)

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