On 31 August 2017, Lebanon ratified the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM). This protocol aims at reinforcing the implementation of the law to protect Lebanon’s environment (244/2002) which stipulates safeguarding our coast and our marine resources against pollution, as the Lebanese coastal line is subjected to myriad violations tampering with its water, its fisheries, its shores, its air, its natural sites and thus its cultural heritage.
A need for a new legal instrument
In spite of many international and national efforts in recent decades to ensure sustainable management of coastal natural resources, coastal areas, throughout the Mediterranean, still face severe pressures and problems, which threaten coastal resources and undermine the viability of economic activities. The significance of the coastal areas is widely recognised, as well as the need to act in the immediate future since pressures are becoming more and more intense. Population growth on the south shores, changing agricultural production systems towards more intensive and resource demanding uses in the north but also lately in the south, industrial development and expanding transport infrastructure, but mostly expanding tourism lead to increasing concentration of population and economic activities in coastal areas.
Since the revision of the Barcelona Convention in 1995, coastal areas are at the heart of the policies put forward to the Contracting Parties of this Convention (CPs). These policies are translated into many guidelines, recommendations, action plans, and white papers, which are only in fact “soft” laws, not binding for the States. Such instruments are characterised by their simplicity and flexibility. They can be adopted and modified without specific procedures. But they remain optional, and their application is voluntary and unbinding for States. They often precede the conclusion of an international agreement.
It became obvious that no real progress would be achieved in the field with new ICZM recommendations or guidelines alone, since these would only be repetitions of what already exists, close to stagnation or regression, highlighting once again the lack of effectiveness and implementation of adopted documents. Only specialists are aware of these documents and almost everything has already been written on these issues. Time has come to take one further step, ensuring more effective application in the field. To that end, the only truly viable legal instrument was the adoption of a legally binding regional instrument.
Lebanon ratification of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, an adhesion procedure has been initiated to formalize its commitment. Nevertheless, a number of projects have already been implemented by the MoE reflecting the efforts of the Government of Lebanon in this cross-sector problématique. Among these projects, the Coastal Area Management Program (CAMP) implemented between 2002 and 2004, which contributed to the protection of marine resources in Southern Beirut through the application of tools for sustainable and integrated coastal and marine zone management (ICZM) to the economic and social development activities of the area. Another project is the regional MedWetCoast project that aimed at building capacity and promoting the development of national policies and tools addressing the policy-related reasons of loss of wetland and coastal biodiversity and the protection and removal of such root causes in two (2) key demonstration sites. However, these projects did not reach establishing an integrated marine and coastal biodiversity management strategy.
To this day, Lebanon still lacks an integrated plan or strategy for coastal zone management and protection. The coastal zone in Lebanon being considered as a national treasure of high economic value, the adoption of such a strategy/plan has become, by the day, increasingly important and urgent due to some of the irreversible damages to this zone.
A two-phased methodology needed:
- Undertaking a situational analysis of the current land use of the coastal zone, particularly in terms of socio-economic activities, and
- Developing a strategy to enhance socio-economic opportunities, using a community-based Green Economy approach as well as environmentally-friendly incentives and innovative financial mechanisms to mobilize resources to sustain the “Land Use Master Plan for the Lebanese Coastline”.