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Rural and Natural Areas under Pressure

p. 70-71

Texte intégral

1As urbanization has been spreading across the country, rural and natural areas have increasingly been under pressure. Characterized by the presence of forest land and agricultural terraces attached to its impressive slopes, the central region of Mount Lebanon and Beirut, nowadays inhabited by nearly 2.5 million residents, refugees included, has become more and more urbanized. Dense urbanization has come along with the urbanization of rural areas, through the growth of villages, along the roads and in the form of leapfrog development in natural and agricultural zones, which indicates a growing integration between these and the capital region.

Urbanization in the mountains and rural areas

2In addition to identifying built-up areas, the Center for Remote Sensing of the NCSR-Lebanon has undertaken a mapping of land uses, the results of which are presented here for Mount Lebanon. This central region extends from the sea to summits above 2,600 m. Benefiting from a humid climate in winter, it is the most wooded region in the country with 650 sq. km of forest land, which may sometimes be found on former uncultivated fields, and account for half of the Lebanese natural land. Because of steep slopes, rural to urban migration and urbanization, agricultural land only covers 250 sq. km. The two main crops are vegetables and fruit, especially bananas, in coastal areas (including in the plain located around Damour, south of Beirut) and orchards at higher altitudes (successively olive trees then apple trees and other fruit trees).

3These agricultural and natural lands have come under heavy urban pressure. In addition to the typical urbanization of the town center and along the main roads, urbanization has been observed in the growth of villages. Since the end of the Civil War, these residential suburbs have benefited from a better road network. In the heights of Jbeil, the areas of Kesrouan-Ftouh, Aley and Iqlim el-Kharroub, a true patchwork has been emerging. In the absence of restricting plans, as land opportunities appear, constructions are being built on agricultural plots and in wooded and natural areas. This leapfrog development accounts for about 25% of the continuous urban areas in Mount Lebanon.

Figure IV-7: Land use in Mount Lebanon and Beirut in 2013


Figure IV-8: Land use in Lebanon in 2013


Coastal areas: the example of Sarafand

4Located half-way between Saida and Sour, Sarafand has experienced the same evolution and trends as many other Lebanese coastal cities. These have been under growing urban pressure at the expense of fruit crops and natural land.

5The historic part of Sarafand is located on a rocky hill which dominates the agricultural plain, where banana trees have replaced the less profitable citrus fruits. Distant from the zone occupied by Israel and mixed areas, it was relatively preserved from the fights during the Civil War. The mapping of built-up structures in 2002 shows the intensity and the various forms of the urbanization process: along the transport corridors, especially the coastal road between Sour and Saida, and around the periphery of the village, including in the form of leapfrog development and private housing projects, which are little integrated in their environment.

6The war caused major population displacements toward safest cities. It turned Sarafand into one of the places to stay along the road for refugees which were mostly Shiite as was the population of the area. The Amal party facilitated their settlement on the maritime public domain. The administration has remained powerless after the war, which has resulted not only in the persistent occupation of the maritime public domain but also in the recurring construction of buildings and housing projects without any preliminary permit.

7The war and post-war years have also been marked by the diminution of the influence exerted by ancient Shiite families to the benefit of a new leadership (Amal and Hezbollah) and a new social elite, namely the Shiite citizens who had done well abroad, especially in Africa, and come back. The structure revealed by a study of land ownership partly shows these social transformations as they could be observed in 2002. At that time, the large agricultural plots (in green) mostly belonged to owners who were not from the area, wealthy Shiite families from South Lebanon for whom intensive agriculture remained profitable. The smaller built-up plots (in yellow), located along the roads and around the central part of the village, belonged to people from Sarafand and concentrated most of the new buildings. The category in purple encompassed various situations: waqf land (religious or family-related), municipal and State-owned land, public domain. No recent survey or assessment has been conducted in this area, but the available satellite imagery does not show any reversal of the trends observed at the beginning of the 2000s.

Figure IV-9: Urbanization and land ownership in Sarafand (2002)

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