Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. As Lebanese, we love going to downtown and Gemmayze and enjoying our nightlife. And who could blame us? We’re ranked 4th in the world in that domain. We like going to our beautiful beaches, skiing in Faraya and Faqra, and enjoying parts of our country which are beautiful slices of Heaven. However, there are parts of our country that we choose to ignore; our slums.

Largely in the Eastern and Southern parts of Beirut, our slums are the result of rural migration and wartime displacement to Beirut for those in search of job opportunities. These slums are ridden with problems; poor sanitation, over-crowding, crumbling social processes, extreme poverty, and the like. However, we choose to shrug our shoulders, state that this is a predicament created by the civil war, and leave it at that. We turn a blind eye to them.

Granted, the problems that these slums face are not easy ones to solve. Aside from poor and/or displaced Lebanese, many of those who live there are foreign illegal workers; Syrians, Ethiopians, Kurds, and others who do not have legal work permits. I will not argue as to what to do with foreign and illegal residents; I hear everything from legalizing their residency to deporting them and I will not take sides on this issue. Whom I am focusing on are Lebanese who live in these neighborhoods. But I digress.

 Believe it or not, the conditions of those who live in such conditions are can be rehabilitated…to a degree, anyway. First, let us take a look at the conditions they live in. This is a picture taken on “Tarik el-Matar”  (the Airport Road).

 

 

This is an aerial picture of the Southern suburbs of Beirut:

Sothern suberbs of Beirut One of the poorest areas in Lebanon

 

 

Lebanon, these are but two of many images. We know these neighborhoods; Ouzai, Moussaitbeh, Ghbayri, Nabaa, Chiyeh, and more. We try our best to avoid them, instead of trying to rehabilitate both the people who live there and our beloved country. After all, neither they nor our slums will improve if we turn a blind eye to them. Instead the situation of our people, our nation, and environment will continue to deteriorate. In discussing this topic, we focus on the illegality of these residents, the fact that they are a strain on the system and that the slums are an eyesore to look at. I hear a lot of people asking “what do you propose to do with them?”

 

Put them to work.

 

A lot of these people come from rural areas, have little or no education, and few job skills. Many of them are squatters. Hence, their value comes in terms of menial labor. We tend to look down on those who carry out menial labor, but their value is higher than we think. My fellow Lebanese, Our economy is underdeveloped; we export only few agricultural products, cement, wine, and focus on tourism and services. We are a country that does not have a solid economic base, and we import most of our food from other countries. We have no independence in terms of even the most basic of our needs.

 

If we invest money in our agricultural sector, we can put these people to work. We need people to till the land and farm. If we invest in their training as agricultural laborers, everyone benefits. Not only will Lebanon benefit by having a growing agro-economic sector with more independence in this domain, but the “squatters” whom we used to ignore will have jobs, and will also be paying taxes. Their own disposable income, and the taxes generated from their labor, will generate higher revenues. Their living situation will improve. With this increase in revenue, we as a state can rehabilitate these areas; think about the Elissar public housing initiative. We can reconstruct housing units with better urban planning. It’s been done before. Best of all, we will have more money-making Lebanese, better housing projects, more revenues, more economic independence, and courtesy of focusing on agriculture, an improved environment.

 

My fellow Lebanese, I will admit that this argument is grounded in an element of idealism. I don’t expect that green economy will magically reconfigure our slums to shining beacons of success. In any case, should this initiative take place, it would take quite some time for any change to materialize, and the will to turn this initiative into government policy is wanting. Besides, there are plenty of non-Lebanese who live in these areas and I will not suggest any ideas as to what to do with them. However, this is a start, and one that has many positive implications. Let us put our fellow Lebanese to work and improve our situation as a nation. We can do it if we want to!!

 

 

 

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