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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 7 - Territorial Governance, Urban and National Planning

Urban and Land-Use Planning: A Legacy of State Intervention

Walid Bakhos

Texte intégral

1The Civil War and its consequences have had a major impact on the contemporary spatial transformations experienced by Lebanon. The State has played a significant role, especially in the reconstruction efforts, but one has to keep in mind the diversity of the actors involved and of the interests they represent.

The Chehabist legacy

2Between the independence and the beginning of the Civil War, the State launched a series of initiatives in the field of regional planning and infrastructure. The best-known example is the policy promoted by General Chehab between 1958 and 1964. It aimed at ensuring economic development, building the State and uniting the nation, and relied on studies the French International Institute for Research and Training for Harmonized Development (IRFED) had prepared. Based on urban hierarchy, the document determined a series of public facilities and services adapted to each level and thought as vectors of modernity and examples of State action in support of national cohesion. The efforts led to the opening-up of villages, and the provision of drinking water and electricity were emblematic of the period.

3Up until today, the Chehab presidency remains a reference for political leaders and the public. It constitutes the background against which policies are debated and evaluated. The notion of “balanced development”, which became a constitutional principle with the Taif Agreement, is a heritage of this period and of the concept of “harmonized development” theorized by IRFED’s founder Louis-Joseph Lebret.

Figure VII-2: The “polarization grid” suggested by the IRFED

Figure VII-2: The “polarization grid” suggested by the IRFED

Post-war reconstruction: a multifaceted series of voluntarist measures

4The Lebanese government drafted numerous reconstruction plans during less intense periods of the war, including in 1977 when the Council for Development and Reconstruction was created, and in 1982–1983 at the start of the Gemayel presidency. Reactivated in 1991, the CDR was the main agency in charge of the reconstruction. It was commissioned to fix priorities and get funding from international organizations and the Lebanese government. The Council for South Lebanon, created in 1970 to develop the southern part of the country, and the Central Fund of the Displaced, established in 1992 along with the eponymous ministry, mostly operating in Mount Lebanon and the North, implemented projects in their respective regions. The distribution of the investments made by the CDR until 2004 shows the huge effort undertaken to rebuild the infrastructure that was essential to the economy and daily life: communication and transportation networks, drinking water supply network, electricity grid. In addition to the physical reconstruction of the country, which highlights the State’s effort to heal the wounds, one must not overlook the other implemented policies, especially in the social sphere. According to an overview of the public expenditures published in 2000, physical investments only stood for 11,6% of the committed funds. The policy established to benefit the displaced was a major component of the initiatives launched by the government at the end of the war. In several cities, including Tripoli, the Fund has played a considerable role in urban planning and land development on a large scale as it managed the rebuilding of destroyed neighborhoods. Elsewhere, it has supported the return of families and the rehabilitation of housing units in the villages, with a seemingly uneven success: overall, only 20% of the displaced returned to their original homes.

Figure VII-3: Reconstruction-related investments by sector at the beginning of the 2000s

Figure VII-3: Reconstruction-related investments by sector at the beginning of the 2000s

5The reconstruction of Beirut represented one of the most important and emblematic projects. Along with its suburbs, the city suffered considerable damages during the war. Its rebuilding was one of the requirements for national recovery for both symbolic and economic reasons: as a mixed area, in the words of the author Ahmad Beydoun, it belonged to all the Lebanese and it hosted the economic driving forces of the country. The reconstruction of the city center was the icon of its rebirth. It has been entrusted to a private real estate company, Solidere. Its mission is to complete the construction works according to a plan approved by the authorities and to sell the land parcels, except the ones recovered by formers owners and where places of worship had been built. Launched in 1994, the project has resulted in many demolitions aimed at freeing up space to ensure a very modernist redevelopment. It has been subject to many controversies due to numerous expropriations, compensations deemed insufficient, and the scale of the demolitions carried out at the expense of the traditional urban fabric and archeological sites. One of its main architects was Rafic Hariri, who became Prime Minister in 1992, in an atmosphere laden with potential conflicts of interest.

Figure VII-4: The reconstruction of the city center: the Masterplan and its evolution

Figure VII-4: The reconstruction of the city center: the Masterplan and its evolution

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VII-2: The “polarization grid” suggested by the IRFED
Fichier image/png, 170k
Titre Figure VII-3: Reconstruction-related investments by sector at the beginning of the 2000s
Fichier image/png, 44k
Titre Figure VII-4: The reconstruction of the city center: the Masterplan and its evolution
Fichier image/png, 264k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2019

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