There are ongoing battles between protecting what remains of public spaces and poor people’s livelihoods and the ever-increasing encroachment of privatization for exclusive resorts and hotels. One such battle is the Daliyeh.
Back in March, I had posted about it:
Al-Dalia Port, across from the famous pigeon rocks in Raouche, is not the same any more. Some of the fishermen’s kiosks that were built decades ago have been flattened after bulldozers went to work yesterday to remove the rest of their kiosks and houses. Yet most of al-Dalia’s fishermen preferred to remain silent. What Beirut’s notorious contractors failed to do in the courts and through threats and intimidation – that is remove the fishermen from the land which they inherited from their forefathers – money succeeded in doing.
The battle has continued since then
On May 7, Al Akhbar wrote:
Daliyeh, a small peninsula sprouting from the Raouche neighborhood close to Beirut’s renowned Pigeons’ Rock, is being sealed off from the public. Already, security guards are on site and steel poles – the first sign of a planned fence – have been struck into the ground. A luxurious hotel resort is expected to be built on the land, a resort likely accessible to only a small affluent section of Lebanese society. For everyone else, it is another marker that Beirut’s suffocation is accelerating as the struggle for inclusive spaces continues.
For decades, Daliyeh – amounting to 112,257 square meters of ground and rock – was used as a place of leisure for many sectors of Lebanese society. Its spacious land, with a beautiful view of the Pigeons’ Rock, was used for family picnics, lovers’ romantic hideouts, as a hub for swimmers and divers, a port for fishermen, and by hundreds of Lebanon’s Kurdish population who headed there to celebrate Nowruz at the dawn of spring.
It is one of the last places of leisure for many, particularly the poor who cannot afford the expensive entrance fees charged by beach and swimming pool resorts which have eclipsed virtually all of Beirut’s shoreline.
The struggle over Daliyeh escalated during the final months of 2013 after companies owned by the Hariri family scooped up most of the land from other prominent families and began to dig up the foundations for what is expected to be a fancy beach resort.
In October and November, the fishermen of Daliyeh launched variousforms of demonstrations to highlight the imminent eviction they faced. The protests were ultimately unsuccessful, and the development proceeded as planned.
But the story of Daliyeh is only one story in a series of tragedies besetting the design and control of Beirut’s public spaces.
[Read the story in full here]
And what of those declining public spaces?
The AUB Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs recently held a lecture entitled: The Making and Reclaiming of Communal Spaces in Beirut: The Story of the Dalieh by Abir Saksouk-Sasso. Check out the youtube here. The lecture is summarized here.
“Abir Saksouk-‐Sasso started her presentation by giving an overview of the concept of public space in Beirut. The state, conceptually, is the provider of public spaces. However, according to Saksouk-‐Sasso, a series of historical practices in Beirut have shown that the state “is either disinterested or openly at war with such spaces. The municipality of Beirut continuously leases out properties to private intuitions that would limit their uses; Zaitunay Bay being the prime example. Or, it completely bans access to public places such as the unwarranted closure of Horsh Beirut.
Saksouk-‐Sasso argued that “in a coastal city like Beirut, the right to the city embraces the right to sea-‐front lands.” Thus, it transcends the idea of an individual right to a natural resource to a collective right. Saksouk-‐Sasso saw that users, state officials, professionals, academics, and activists shape our understanding of the public sphere thus influencing the policies that govern them. “Dalieh is where we could best imagine possibilities for claiming back our city by focusing on our right to this space as both a working slogan and a political ideal.”
As reported by Al-Akhbar, A great summary of the dire condition of public spaces came in the form of a 9-minute video released by the Lebanese Economic Association on February 2013:
That video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FEJ0E-eulT8
So what can be done?
There is a campaign to protect this public space.
* A press conference is scheduled for this Sunday at 3 pm. For more information, go to their Facebook page.
في منطقة الروشة قبالة الصخرة تقع الدالیة،￼ و ھي كنز جیولوجي و تاریخي و بیئي و ثقافي فرید ورثناه من الاجیال التي سبقتنا. و شكلت دالیة الروشة طوال العقود مرفقا عاما لروادھا من اھالي بیروت و محبیھا.
تتعرض الدالیة الیوم لمشروع عقاري یھدد معالمھا و یحد من وجھة استعمالھا، محولا ایاھا من مرفق عام لا بدیل لبیروت عنھ الى مكان خاص شبیھ بالكثیر من الفنادق و المنتجعات السیاحیة المتناثرة على طول الشاطئ اللبناني.
امام الخطر المحدق على ھذا المعلم العام، تدعوكم “اللجنة الاھلیة للدفاع عن دالیة الروشة” لتغطیة المؤتمر الصحفي الذي ستعقده یوم الاحد الواقع في 11 أیار 2014 في تمام الساعة الثالثة من بعد الظھر.
* For information on the public campaign itself, go to this Facebook page
Let’s stand together. It would be a violation of our rights to close of the sea and make it exclusive in a coastal city. Public spaces are critical to the live of a city, to our lives, to our sense of community.