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French Version

More green space disappears (Daily Star)

ISF to take 9,000 square meters of Horsh Beirut
The municipality has agreed that a temporary police station can be built

Beirut's 0.8-square meter-per-capita ratio of greenery - 50 times less than the standard set by the World Health Organization - is about to drop further, as 9,000 square meters from Horsh Beirut are to become concreted over by the Interior Security Forces.

"Two years ago the ISF filed a request to build a temporary police station inside Horsh Beirut (Beirut Forest) ... We had hoped the government would chose another location, but the decision is really not ours," said Roula al-Ajouz, the head of the public parks committee at Beirut municipality in an interview published in An-Nahar Daily. The municipality, explained Ajouz, fears that the temporary station might become permanent, however it found that it was in the interest of the area to build the station due to the numerous attacks committed in the area. Planted six years ago with a large contribution from the French region of Isle de France, Horsh Beirut lost more than 200 pine trees on Monday.

"What is going on now in Horsh Beirut is not new and ignoring the community's requests to stop the project isn't surprising," Abbas Salman, a 15-year-old environmental activist, told The Daily Star. "The coalition for more green areas in Beirut worked hard for many years and with different governmental institutions," said Salman. "But they're not cooperative and just don't care. Anyway this issue was never in the hands of the municipality, it is in the hands of the politicians. The municipality doesn't have the power to take any decisions and it is a waste of time to bet on it." Commenting on whether environmental NGO's would be able to lobby against the project, Abbas said he was not sure of the environmental sector's capacities.

The secretary general of Greenline, a non-governmental organization, Hala Ashour told The Daily Star Thursday that NGOs and members of the civil society had already kicked off a campaign to stop the plan. "We are exposing the negative aspects of the project to the public, we are sending memos to the related ministries and to officials and we are filing a petition," said Ashour. "The municipality is compromising and we don't know what the price behind it was," said Ashour adding that "it can easily seek legal support to ban the execution of this project that is why it should be held responsible." George Tomeh, a retired environmentalist and biologist said that not only is the forest an important historic and tourist site "which should be protected and classified as national heritage, but it also contributes to the preservation of biodiversity as 130 species have disappeared in Lebanon, especially in the regions of Bir Hassan, Khalde and the airport since 1984." "There are some plants in Lebanon that only grow here and I have worked in previous years with municipalities on planting seeds inside Horsh Beirut to preserve them as they are on their way to extinction ... hearing about this, saddens me deeply," said Tomeh.

Beirut 17-01-2005
Nada Bakri
The Daily Star

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