The view from Harissa sure is great if you scan the bay. Look down and it’s a disaster: ugly buildings springing up everywhere, eating away the mountain and the greenery, infesting their way around like cancer cells – uncontrolled and non-stopped.
Nazem Khoury, minister of environment in our dissolved government has, therefore, issued a new decree to turn the Harissa mountain into another nature reserve to stop the pangs of urbanism and keep whatever form of nature that the mountain had intact. The conversion to a nature reserve will happen with the help of the Maronite patriarchate and the Jounieh municipality (link).
Good news? Perhaps it is. But only for Harissa, which seems is still salvageable enough despite the many concrete blocks that have ruined part of it forever.
However, the question begets itself: what about the countless other mountains which do not happen to be religious shrines, do not get similar attention and do not exist in areas which are of touristic focus?
Turning Harissa to a nature reserve is a positive step. But it’s troubling that we need to turn an entire mountain into a nature reserve just to protect it from impeding construction and real estate. Is our only environmental solution to spring up nature reserves here and there just because we do not have a grasp on existing laws and cannot really contain the corruption that infests real estate and the mentalities of people towards the environment, à la nature is God’s given poubelle of the Lebanese people?
Because the root of the problem isn’t fixed, there will be another mountain out there which causes some environmental outrage down the road, maybe even bigger than Harissa. Nature reserves are needed, sure. But what we need even more is for municipalities across the country to be more stringent in the criteria employed to give away building licenses. We need relevant ministries to be more strict with urbanism laws that require certain standards be met, along the lines of no apartment complexes should spring up in Lebanese mountains where they don’t belong.
I doubt any of the aforementioned will happen anytime soon. Such issues are forcibly ranked so low on our list of priorities they might as well be deemed irrelevant. Good news for Harissa.