BEIRUT: A draft law designed to promote “green” construction has sparked outrage among civil society activists who have submitted a petition to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, asking him to cancel it.
The proposal is one of the draft laws that the government hopes to use in funding a new salary scale for public sector employees and teachers, who have been in an open-ended strike since last month.
Activists said that the government was attempting to exploit the demands of public sector employees to further justify real-estate speculation and the destruction of heritage sites.
Activists argue that the proposal is an attempt to introduce new exploitative tactics for real-estate developers and contains no criteria to govern the “green” aspect of new construction.
“Professionals, academics and active members of civil society express our strong reservations about the proposed green building law which we believe will have a negative impact on the built and natural environment in Lebanon. [This law will] decrease an already dwindling quality of life in our cities and villages,” the petition said.
According to the draft law proposal obtained by The Daily Star, real-estate developers may exploit their land by at least 25 percent more if they agree with the new conditions.
“This law encourages higher densities in our saturated cities, particularly in Beirut, putting an additional load on an already failing infrastructure system,” said the petition.
“It’s irresponsible and will only worsen the poor quality of life, and increase congestion and pollution in cities.”
The proposal doesn’t include detailed information on what construction criteria real-estate promoters should follow if they want to benefit from the proposed law.
“Sustainable buildings or green buildings, according to this law, are buildings that meet environmental, social, urban and energy conditions that will be agreed upon by Cabinet,” said the first article of the proposal.
Raja Noujaim, an activist who is part of the campaign, said: “The principle of any green building law is to promote and help in the construction of green buildings that preserve public space and green areas in the country, but this law only talks about taxation and how a real-estate company [can] escape zoning and building regulations.”
“How can we promote green space when we allow constructions to exploit [another] 25 percent of the land horizontally?” asked Noujaim.
“Zoning and building regulations are there to protect the quality of open public spaces, improve circulation conditions, and raise the quality of life and not finance public coffers,” the petition said.