With Beirut Madinati, let’s make the Fouad Boutros Park a reality!

The municipality of Beirut holds thousands of square meters of land in the Hekmeh neighborhood, an entire cluster of heritage houses and acres of century old gardens.

With this incredible wealth, the current municipality wished to… build a highway. The Civil Coalition against the Hekmeh-Turk Highway Project has instead proposed a park, a network of small squares and public spaces, and a set of cultural/leisure venues.

The Beirut Madinati group is conscious of the need for green areas in Beirut, which has 0.8 sqm of vegetation per inhabitant instead of the 10sqm recommanded by the World Health Organisation. Among the group’s candidates and think tank, are several activists who fought with or supported the Civil Coalition against the highway project: Abdul-Halim Jabr, Mona Fawaz, Serge Yazigi, Mona Hallak, Levon Telvizian, etc.

Naturally, the Beirut Madinati group has fully adopted and endorsed our proposal of a Fouad Boutros Park: 

FOUAD BOUTROS PARK : THE VIDEO

Park Fouad Boutros

Beirut Madinati also promised to act in all of the neighborhoods of the city, to improve our shared practice of public spaces which have become unwelcoming because of the unrestrained and exclusive reliance on the car as the only means of transportation…

IN HAMRA : THE VIDEO

IN TARIK JDIDEH : THE VIDEO

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Municipal Election: Support Beirut Madinati

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The Civil Coalition Against the Fouad Boutros Highway supports theBeirut Madinati campaign which aims at bringing to the Municipal Council a group of competent and sensitive people, experts in the fields of urban planning, architecture, sociology, ecology, waste management, etc.

The Beirut Madinati program proposes clear answers to the constant traffic jams which have turned Beirut into a constant deadlock: “Our mobility strategy aims to shift the current modal distribution away from its heavy reliance on private car ownership, towards more sustainable means of shared modes of transportation (taxis, buses and vans) as well as soft modes of mobility (pedestrian, biking, etc.)

The Beirut Madinati group will turn away from the inefficient and archaic car-based mobility srategy of the past municipal councils. With this group, obsolete projects such as the Fouad Boutros Highway will be cancelled in favor of truly effective and contemporary strategies.

The summarized program can be read, and the full program can be downloaded here:
Beirut Madinati Program

Donations to help finance the campaign can be done here:
Donations

Spread the word, help out, vote!

 

What could have been and can still be

Nabil Nakkash, transport systems engineer at TEAM International, recently posted two interesting articles concerning the possibility of public transportation in Greater Beirut.

The first was about a soviet study conducted in 1968 for the implementation of a metro network in Beirut. It was more a prefiguration of what an underground tranport system in Beirut could look like. Indeed, it did lack a number of scientific data and a strategy for implementation, but it has the merit of having raised very early on the idea of a Beirut Metro.

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To have a look at the study, click here


The second study Nabil Nabil Nakkash posted is the 1995 Greater Beirut Area Transporation Plan (GBATP). Much more serious than the soviet study of 1968, it studied the feasibility of a very complete plan for traffic management and for the implementation of a public transporation network. It proposed a diverse set of actions such as: completing and reorganizing the road network, creating underground metro lines,  site-dedicated bus lines, relaunching a regional/suburban train line, organizing taxi/service networks, building public silo parkings, etc.

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To have a look at the study, click here


 

” Computer simulations demonstrate that, in the absence of a modern mass transit system, meeting future needs will remain an illusion.”
– Executive Summary of the GBATP 

As said by Nabil Nakkash, “Unfortunately, we have reached a point where any future investment in road infrastructure will make little difference on the overall network. Without a paradigm shift in the way we view the issue of mobility in our city, no real improvement will be possible.”

The Municipality of Beirut and CDR have been warned for more than 20 years that not working on the implementation of a mass transit system will bring traffic in Beirut and its suburbs to a catastrophic deadlock. 20 years later, in the middle of that predictable deadlock, the Municipality wishes to invest around 100 million dollars into the Fouad Boutros highway, a short stretch of road planned more than 50 years ago. If the Municipality of Beirut is so keen to fish out some old projects from its drawers, it could at least have chosen the right ones.

Rather than spending them on a defunct highway doomed to fail, a 100 million dollars would be much better spent on this first implementation of the GBATP. Indeed, the GBATP estimates that 100 million dollars would be sufficient (inflation put aside) to buy 400 buses catering 80 million passengers per year…

Something the decision makers of the Municipality of Beirut and the CDR should ponder upon…

 

 

 

How should we honor Fouad Boutros?

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Fouad Boutros passed away. He was one of Lebanon’s most irreproachable and prominent politicians. He was known for his high integrity and for his constant search of public good in whatever position he held, in the several ministries he headed, including the “Ministère du Plan”, the pre-war equivalent of a Ministry of Urbanism.

This great man’s name should not be given to an urban aberration, to a failed highway project, disqualified by every single urban professional in the country. Fouad Boutros should be honored with a project that truly serves public good, which will change city life for the better and offer its citizens something that they truly need.

The Civil Coalition advocates the creation of the Fouad Boutros Park, along the trail the highway was supposed to follow. The municipality of Beirut owns around 20 historic buildings and thousands of square meters of gardens, that have been expropriated before 1975. It is a unique, golden opportunity to do something undoubtedly good for the city, to offer citizens a new green, natural public space, and a cultural hub.

Fouad Boutros was minister of urbanism: let’s create a positive urban gesture that makes sense for the city! He was minister of education: let’s honor him with a place where culture is held high! He was minister of tourism: let’s turn the Hekmeh neighborhood into a heritage quarter attractive for visitors! He was a celebrated diplomat, let’s build a participative project, shared by the Municipality, Beirut’s citizens, the local inhabitants and civil society. Let’s imagine a project which would be a true legacy to Fouad Boutros’s career and achievements!

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CLICK HERE for more information about the Fouad Boutros Park proposal

WHAT TIME IS THIS HIGHWAY?

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The case against the proposed “Hikmeh-Turk” Axis in Ashrafieh (also known as Fouad Boutros Highway)

By Abdul-Halim Jabr & Antoine Atallah
Monday talk with Karaz w Laimoon

Monday 29 June 2015 (7 pm – Open to All)
AUB in The WAAAUB Club House (Mary Dodge Hall)

For more details, click here

Planned more than 60 years ago, the “Fouad Boutros” highway is today one of the most important projects of the Municipality of Beirut. Designed according to obsolete principles that have long been discredited, it does not bring satisfying answers to the contemporary challenges of Beirut, neither in terms of traffic management, nor in terms of urban environment. In an age where cities are being planned for pedestrians, active mobilitand public transportation, where the preservation of historical, urban and social fabrics is a priority of public policies, building the “Fouad Boutros” highway is an anachronism strongly opposed by civil society, professionals and academia.

Of the damages of urban highways – historical overview

The creation of urban highways between the 1950’s amd 1970’s in Beirut caused extensive damage to the original fabric of the city. Hundreds of buildings were demolished in the process, neighborhoods were seperated by fast lanes of traffic difficult or impossible to cross, traditional fabrics were ripped appart.

Today, no city in the world, (except in some totalitarian regimes) thinks of destroying their historic fabrics to make way for the car. And we will never accept that such destructive action still be done in our city today. The Fouad Boutros highway will not pass.

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The demolition of the traditional urban fabric in Zokak El Blat to make way for the Fouad Chehab Avenue (Photo credit : Prof. E. Wirth)

Parts of the 1964 cadastral map, showing the impact on the urban fabric caused by the construction of urban highways

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Aerial photograph of Achrafieh in 1972
Showing the new Sassine Square and the Alfred Naccache avenue being cut into the existing urban fabric of Achrafieh (Photo credit : unknown-rights reserved)

Welcome to Lebanon : a TEDx talk on the potential of civil activism

Investigative journalist Habib Batah does an inspiring speech about the power of activism in Lebanon today, and mentions the fight of activists against the Fouad Boutros Highway project (at 6:30).


TEDx Talks presentation :

“This is Lebanon,” is what you hear people say about something broken that is seemingly impossible to fix. But beneath the often negative headlines, a quiet activism is on the rise in Lebanon. Citizens now have access to new forms of digital accountability and officials are under a lot of pressure to conform. Change begins with a question. Will it be yours?

Habib Battah is an investigative journalist, blogger, dirt digger. He is a contributor to BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, The Daily Star and other newspapers and magazines. He is also the founder of The Beirut Report.


If you didn’t yet, please sign the petition against the Fouad Boutros highway