H@R! : Heritage at Risk


Texte en français

After seventeen years of war, with the reduction of the manpower and personnel attached to the Directorate General of Antiquities, archaeological excavation on the assemblage of the country’s sites was interrupted and its being taken up again is highly unlikely. It is to be noted that currently great efforts are actually supplied by the authorities but they are still insufficient given the unreliable resources and the immensity of the task.

Urgent Priority - Mine Clearing

The South of Lebanon has been a conflict zone for two decades. Since the declaration of peace and the end to hostilities, this region is in urgent need to be cleared of mines. It is a fact that several sites have been submitted to bombardment and massive destruction (Chateau Beaufort), and that others of them have been the object of unauthorised excavation and pillaging. It only remains that the majority of sites have been transformed into minefields.

Risks concerning 2 of the 5 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List

  • Wadi Qadisha or the Holy Valley and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el Rab)

The development of undirected religious tourism and road installations implemented in spite of the management plan provided for the Valley, thus permitting car access, are added to the major problem of the flow of waste water from the villages located within the precincts of the valley. One study aiming to resolve this problem has already been carried out, however the funds are not available.

  • Tyre

The unregulated urban development of the city threatens the archaeological sites located during surveys but not yet excavated. The flow of sewage onto underwater remains is abbetting their degradation.

Risks to the assemblage of archaeological sites of the national heritage

Several threats are affecting Lebanese heritage, notably:

  • Ignorance of the existence of sites

For want of survey, hundreds of archaeological sites, from a mixture of periods, do not appear on the lists prepared by the Directorate General of Antiquities (clandestine excavations are putting uncertain heritage in danger). A comprehensive inventory of the country‘s historic and archaeological heritage places is urgent.

  • Ignorance of the significance of heritage - the desertion of sites and massive pillaging

The lack of information on one side and the lack of interpretation of heritage on the other, both at the educational and social levels, is illustrated by the lack of interest that the average citizen holds for his or her heritage. In the current thinking in the country, only an imposing grandiose monument is considered heritage and every product from excavations has a market value. The lack of awareness has actually dangerously deteriorated in the abandonment of sites from one side, and the clandestine excavations, the pillaging and illicit trafficking on the other.

  • Inadequate legislation

The current legislation in the country goes back to 1933 and not a single amendment has taken place since, several review and amendment projects have not succeeded. The updating of this legislation is a priority so that it can be adapted to urban development and to the current socio-economic conditions.

  • Comprehensive plan for land management

During the war, unauthorised and uncontrolled urban growth took place in the historic city centre and on the country's entire heritage assemblage. Management plans that have followed are developed in leaving out the input of the heritage conservation sectors. Land speculation exacerbates the exploitation rates and has resulted in disfiguring the urban and semi-urban landscape, from which there is an urgent need to reconsider the plans for the main cities of Lebanon.

- Tripoli: Hammam, khans and medrasses and the complex of medieval urban fabric suffer daily from two forms of degradation. One caused by the abandonment of a monument, as with Khan el-Massryin and Hammam Iz el-Dinel, and the other caused by bad restoration that does not respect the authenticity of the place, as with the Jewellers souq.

- Beirut: the city centre of the capital lost the majority of its architectural heritage. As for that matter, the archaeological remains uncovered during the excavations over recent years have remained abandoned. Grass has grown over the sites and the risk of deterioration is imminent, hence the urgent priority for consolidation works. The area surrounding the centre (the only hope of the preservation bodies) has lost an important part of its heritage buildings by decree and counter-decree. These responsible at the Directorate General of Antiquitities are aware of the importance of these issues and drawing up a program to remedy them. It is vital to secure resources in order to bring these plans to a successful conclusion.

- Sidon and Batroun: are also main towns with heritage character that have a need of management plans for their ancient quarters, that respect their special values (without neglecting the harbour walls of Batroun and the town within the city-walls at Sidon).

  • The over-exploitation of sites for tourism

Archaeological sites open to the public are experiencing an increasingly significant visitation, especially during the summer and particularly during festivals. The absence of any circulation plan allows tourists to move unrestricted all over the site. It is a matter of urgency to take rapid measures for the organisation of visits in securing a tourist "trail", that enables the interpretation of the site, whilst at the same time protecting the most threatened areas.

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