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Privatized public beaches in Lebanon
II. Causes of privatizing public beaches
A. Political reasons
B. Economic reasons
III. Effects of privatizing public beaches
A. Increase in prices
B. Private beaches considered public
Beaches in Lebanon have been used through years for several reasons. The Lebanese law states, like any other country in the world, that access to the beach should be free and open to everyone (.....). This fact did not ban some of the powerful Lebanese people to privatize these public beaches." Over ten millions of meters of lands historically classified as Mashaa’ (reclaiming public properties), in addition to public properties which some are State-owned, such as sea and rivers, were conquered over the last generations"(Safadi, 2012) claimed the Lebanese minister of finance. This funding took place in order to construct an exemplary for economy that would additionally downgrade the concept of public areas and the public good, emphasizing much more on private interests. This type of destruction erased landscaped areas, beaches, agricultural lands and fully eliminated famous markets and popular historical buildings. Not only this, but it also changed many places that were full of memories, which must be preserved.
Privatizing beaches have been growing incredibly fast with time. New luxurious beach resorts are growing like mushrooms all along the coast, with all types of swimming pools and fancy Jacuzzis right at the seafront whereas bartenders serving cocktails in the middle of bars inside the pools to sounds of loud music. This situation has never been inexistent, on the contrary present through most of the time very silent and in different circumstances.
Political interventions were one of the main causes of feeding this problem. The beach has been “privatized" from all directions, from north to south. This privatization does not benefit the national treasury however, it increases remarkably the income of politicians who took over these beaches. A wide number of these shores in Jounieh, Gieh, Jbeil and many other regions in Lebanon are transformed into Luxury resorts hardly accessible by a few number of the population. Even though this privatization has several negative aspects, it is still present in our country since political figures and parties are backing this type of work, even more, they are the owners of such projects. Despite the bad effects they can have on the environment, they still prefer to up rise their own benefit on top of any other subject. Their main purpose is to raise the biggest amount of money possible. Other than the political reasons that contribute in enlarging this topic, economical reasons also play an important role. The owners of these places hide behind tourism while defending their work, as if taking over the public had become an important part in enlarging the tourists activities. They claim that tourists are attracted to luxurious buildings and resorts therefore the places are being built under the title of leisure and comfort. They try to make it as luxurious and as big as possible and in parallel raise the prices. In this case, only the rich class benefit. In contrary to what is thought to be done, these places have more to negative than positive on tourism. The prices are increasing with the years reaching unaffordable rates that instead of attracting tourists pushing them away.
Not only these causes have erased the public beaches in Lebanon, but also it created several economical effects and beaches that are considered public could still be private. Thousands of Lebanese wait for summer season so they can escape the concrete city to spend the day at the beach. However, in Lebanon there are now only a few meters of coast designated as public beaches. A large section of Lebanese can no longer dip their feet into the sea along their vast coastline. This fact is due to the incredibly high prices imposed by the private sector, which even increases from weekdays to weekends. There are very few choices now: 250 beach clubs are the only way the Lebanese can access the sea. Not only this, but every year, the prices of entry rise and every year. For example, for a Lebanese family to spend a day at the beach nowadays, the cost range would be from 100 000 L.L. to 200 000 L.L. This is the case of a five members family only. This is of course without factoring in the price of water, food, and drinks, because most beach clubs employ people to search bags upon entry, so that not even a bag of chips enters the club. Everything has to be bought inside. Usually in resorts outside the capital, the prices are lower since the customers are mostly locals but still sometimes unaffordable to many of the population. According to the so-called club owners, this increase in price is explained and necessary. It is mentioned that the cost of diesel, the increase in the wages and transport costs of the employees, the rise in providing electricity under the current severe rationing schedule, and the rise in prices of materials to clean the pools have been factors to put these high prices. One specific example is about electricity being essential, “from air conditioning, pool filters, to the kitchen and lighting. With the rise in the price of diesel, the cost of operating the generator has risen to $15,000 a month.” In addition to the cited previously, the effects of privatizing beaches have lead us back to many years earlier. During the war period, while some of the Lebanese people were too busy killing each other, others were clearly caught by something else. Stealing sand from the public was there main concern. They siphoned off thousands of tons of sand, tens of thousands of trucks, maybe more, were sold off. Al-Akhbar estimates that one truckload of sand is worth 400USD today. Let’s assume it was just 300 or 200USD back then, that’s millions if not billions of dollars stolen from the people. It is very likely nowadays to consider a private property a public one. Even while buying a land at the sea, it might be incomplete whereas part of it is actually the sea due to the expansion of lands. On the other hand, due to the huge amount of sand stolen in the past, the shore limit back then was way more advanced in the sea. In this particular case, the sea legally begins at the edge of that artificially reclaimed piece of land. So much sand has disappeared, that the sea moved inland and is technically part of the land being rented or bought.
In conclusion, privatized beaches are present all around the world. However, in other countries than Lebanon, there is a replacement for the private places. In Lebanon, the private is taking over the public illegally due to political reasons and economical purposes. The effects of the topic are enlarging, prices are increasing and private lands are considered private.
- Mashaa’ collective, 2013, Reclaiming the commons in Beirut, retrieved from http://www.arteeast.org/2013/10/20/reclaiming-the-seashore-through-art-and-activism/
- Lahoud C., 2012, A call to arms to help Lebanon’s coast, the daily star, retrieved from http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Books/2012/Feb-08/162529-a-call-to-arms-to-help-lebanons-coast.ashx#axzz32C6fD5wt
- Gino, 2012,Why Some Beach Resorts in Lebanon Are Completely Legal, retrieved from http://thelaw.com/2012/07/03/why-some-beach-resorts-in-lebanon-are-completely-legal/
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