GiB#2 | When Nature Wins Over

Beirut is no Green city.

Only a handful of public green areas still exist today within the city, like Sanayeh or Sioufi. Large privately owned lands like the American University of Beirut’s campus or the French ambassadors’ Residence des Pins (el Horch), are among the very few lots that have survived rampant urbanization. The recent efforts to plant trees on street borders remain marginal (often at the expense of the sidewalk, only adding to the already dreadful pedestrian experience). Our waste treatment company Sukleen has the monopole (of poor recycling). Our numerous NGOs are too often helpless… And the government’s efforts to fight air and water pollution are nearly non-existent: we have free ventilation coming from the sea, don’t we?

…So to remind us of this windy blessing, on hot windless days, the Qarantina waste treatment facility (or is it the livestock containers from the Port, or maybe the nearby slaughterhouse?) emanates nauseous smells into the entire Northern part of the city… and no need to mention noise pollution as the cherry on the cake, as it’s far too alien of a concept around here.

Yet, I like to think that things might be taking a Green turn. Certainly not through marketing gimmicks of political parties like the Marada’s latest campaign pretending to be “Green”, but perhaps through combined public/private Green efforts such as these: A recent article in TimeOut states that a major project is almost underway, that would turn the banks of Beirut River into public garden spaces; The man-made island facing Qarantina is supposed to turn into a public garden. Solidere has long promised to create public gardens in Downtown and in a large part of the reclaimed coastal land around Biel. As for air pollution, there are talks about reviving public transportation including the historic tramway and railroad; and the call is growing to harnessing renewable energy in Lebanon.

In the midst of these all-too-pale green prospects, my most enjoyable spectacle is that of Mother Nature claiming back some of its rights, not by design this time, but by force.

This fig tree in the first photo of a bridge in Beirut, took advantage of our negligence in maintaining our road infrastructure, and found its nest in one of the water evacuation holes.

Green-haired botanist Patrick Blanc made a good choice by choosing Beirut, joining forces with up-and-coming architect Karim Begdache to develop one its famous vertical gardens: sometimes our walls naturally do that! (second photo of a wall in Gemmayze).

My own favorite is when nature reclaims the stones of our city’s abandoned mansions. In the third photo which was taken not in Beirut, but in Sour (Tyre), this blossoming pomegranate tree (grenadier, remmene) was able to develop its whole roots vasculature up in the air, without any contact with the ground, feeding off a leak in the sewage pipes…

Say GiBs, don’t you just love it when nature wins over?

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