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Al Kumma Project tourism project, Lebanon


Description:

The impact of eco-tourism on the environment and on rural communities has been a debate among conservationists and rural development practitioners. Realis Development S.A.L is about to implement a Touristic Project located in Qurnat al-Sawda,  North of Lebanon. The location was chosen as it is an area elevated at 3,000 meters above sea level with a view that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. It is 27 km away from Tripoli and 72 Km away from Rafic Hariri International Airport.  Qurnat al-Sawda was chosen as it is believed to be a location that can be utilized for all sorts of touristic activities or plans that range from Ski Resort, Hotels, Villa's, and all kind of Outdoor activities (Realis Development SAL, 2017). This project without a doubt has generated different reactions among Lebanese inhabitants as the location is one of the few intact virgin lands in Lebanon.  Based on extensive research pertaining to the Al-Kumma project, the following positive/negative claims were deduced.  According to Patrick Ghanem, CEO and partner of Realis Development (Daily Star, 2017):  - The project is eco-friendly as it will use solar energy, utilize wood and imported material and they will follow American and European standards.  - Project is not on in Qornert Esawda rather, it is on Jabbal 40  - The project will put Lebanon’s nature back on the map through the attraction of foreigners.  - The Project will be the highest resort in the MEA  On the other hand, one cannot deny the negative outcomes that might generate from this project and, will range from: - The destruction of the Hiking Trail, an attraction for tourists and nature lovers.  - The destruction one of nature’s last sanctuaries, especially that green spaces are continuously diminishing.  - The possibility of decreasing the number of cedar trees, increase deforestation and disturbing the ecosystem.  - The possibility of threatening water resources since the mountain nourishes rivers to the east such as the Orontes and to the west such as Qadisha.

- The project is planned to be constructed in a remote area lacking appropriate infrastructure hence, decreasing the feasibility of the project (J. Abou Arraj, 2017, personal interview).  - No EIA has taken place till now to assess the potential impacts on the environment (M. Abi Said, 2017, personal interview).

It is important to mention that Lebanon’s location at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, its topography, altitudinal diversity, geomorphology, and microclimate render it rich in its ecosystem diversity. It is estimated to have at least 9 119 species of fauna and flora (MoA/UNEP 1996) of which many are endemic. A hundred years ago, 70% of Lebanon’s surface area was covered with forests; however, in the past 20 years, the forest area has decreased reaching 13% of the country’s area (Sattout & Zahreddine 2013). The rich biodiversity and the diverse ecosystems have been threatened by the conversion of natural habitats to urban, industrial and agricultural areas; increasing population growth and urbanization; unsustainable agricultural practices; overexploitation of forests; private ownership of public properties; quarrying leading to deforestation; water and air pollution; and mismanagement of eco-tourism that has been a growing trend in rural areas (USAID/Lebanon & ECODIT 2002). Serious conservation measures are needed in such country. Jabal Makmel, on which Qornet el Sawda resides, and on which the project will be implemented, is an important biodiversity region, with 200 plant species of which 6 are endemic to Lebanon and, Syria and Turkey, 36 endemic to Lebanon and Syria, and 25 endemic to Lebanon (Radford et al. 2011). Therefore, this mountain is considered a priority area for conservation. In addition, Qornet El Sawda, which is 6-7km away from the project location is among the natural wild habitats left not destructed by humans in Lebanon. These wild areas are on the decrease; it is very important to conserve what is left from Lebanons’ wild ecosystems. The planned resort might have many positive impacts including the enhancement of tourism hence providing economic services and improving local infrastructure in remote areas. However, the launching of construction in such wild area might lead to further construction invading the whole mountain and even reaching the Qornet el Sawda peak. In addition, the increased tourism and increased human activities in such wild regions will highly influence the distribution and existence of many wild species in natural habitats (Abi-Said and Amr 2012).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Al Kumma Project tourism project, Lebanon
Country:Lebanon
State or province:North Governorate
Location of conflict:Qurnat al-Sawdā
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Tourism Recreation
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to the article in HospitalityNews Middle East [1],

"The project’s vision plan involves a five-star boutique hotel with 50 rooms, a club house, a wellness center and a spa, 700 chalets including 60 villas, up for sale and rent, in addition to commercial areas.

The spa will be managed by an international operator, of the likes of Evian. “Our aim is to turn the project into a true retreat and escapade, like Baden Baden in Germany. The experience we will offer is also similar to the one brought by Explora, the renowned travel and destination creators in South America,” Ghanem said.

The development will be established on a 500,000 square meters land plot, and will have a 250,000 m2 built-up area, out of which 50,000 m2 will be dedicated to the hotel and the spa. A Canadian master planner is handling the project design.

It will be delivered over six phases, extending over 15 years. The first phase, encompassing the infrastructure, the hotel and the spa, in addition to a couple of villas and chalets prototypes, will be delivered four years following the kick-off of the works, expected in coming summer.

Investment in the first phase is USD 100 million. According to Ghanem, they are currently finalizing land parceling. The total project worth will reach USD 500 million throughout its development stages. 30 to 40 percent of the project will be up to equity funding."

Level of Investment:500,000,000
Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:193,000 (including Miniyeh-Danniyeh District and Bsharri Caza)
Start of the conflict:01/01/2017
Company names or state enterprises:REALIS DEVELOPMENT SAL from Lebanon - Construction Company
G One Group from Lebanon - The project is owned by G One Group, owned by the Ghanem family. Realis Development, a subsidiary of G One Group is in charge of the project’s management and financial engineering. It is headed by Patrick Ghanem
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Tourism
Ministry of Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:A Petition was launched by Cheyenne Yammine on Change.org in order protest against this project.
Link: https://www.change.org/p/kornet-al-sawda-saving-the-highest-mountain-in-the-middle-east

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Genetic contamination, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:In the Arab region, ecotourism is considered to have a high potential in supporting a green economy since it can play a significant role in generating direct revenues, enhancing sustainable production and increasing the sale of local products. Ecotourism has a potential power in poverty alleviation in rural areas in several countries, including Lebanon (ESCWA 2013). Therefore, ecotourism can play an important role in Jabal Makmel even without the construction of a resort. Ecotouristic activities can be developed in a way to benefit rural communities without the introduction of roads and constructions that have been revealed to highly threaten biodiversity. Many nature lovers visit this place for the sake of spending time in the wild. Utilizing the argument of eco-tourism alone to justify the construction of a resort in a location that has already attracted the attention of many visitors due to its breathtaking landscape and serenity is not valid. This is why a movement has taken against the implementation of the project as a whole, and protests were claimed on many websites including: THE 961. Engaging Lebanese Content (https://www.the961.com/lebanons-highest-peak-qornet-el-sawda-will-be-turned-into-a-resort/); A Separate State of Mind (https://stateofmind13.com/2017/01/16/qornet-el-sawda-lebanons-highest-peak-to-be-ruined-turned-into-a-resort/); and AUB Outlook (http://outlookaub.com/2017/01/31/al-kumma-project-publics-uproar-2/). This movement was further translated through an online petition that gathered to date 10,697 supporters and, was delivered to 27 decision makers including Ecodit, Association for Forest Development and Conservation and Environment Protection Committee etc.. This movement wants to stop the project from taking place.
This petition was launched by Cheyenne Yammine on Change.org.
Link: https://www.change.org/p/kornet-al-sawda-saving-the-highest-mountain-in-the-middle-east
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Even though this petition has gathered to date 10,697 supporters but, we cannot but notice the decrease in enthusiasm against this project and, the lack of any actions taking place.

Sources and Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Abi-Said, M.R. and Z.S. Amr (2012) Camera trapping in assessing diversity of mammals in Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, Lebanon, Vertebrate Zoology, 62, 1, 145-152.

ESCWA, 2013, Green economy initiatives success stories and lessons learned in the Arab countries.
http://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/ESCWA_success%20stories_SDPD_13_P1.pdf

Ministry of Agriculture and UNEP (1996) Biological Diversity of Lebanon: Comprehensive Report. Republic of Lebanon.

USAID/Lebanon and Ecodit (2002). Conservation of Forests and Biological Diversity in Lebanon. FAA 118 / 119 Report.

Radford, E.A., Catullo, G. and Montmollin, B. de. (eds.) (2011). Important Plant Areas of the south and east Mediterranean region: priority sites for conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Malaga, Spain. Gland, Switzerland and Malaga, Spain: IUCN. VIII + 108 pp.

Sattout, E. and H. Zahreddine (2013) Native trees of Lebanon and neighboring countries: A Guidebook for Professionals and Amateurs, Louaize: Notre Dame University.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The Daily Star
https://www.pressreader.com/lebanon/the-daily-star-lebanon/20170119/281569470430926

Realis Development S.A.L
http://www.realisdev.com/#company

The 961
https://www.the961.com/lebanons-highest-peak-qornet-el-sawda-will-be-turned-into-a-resort/)

Kornet Al Sawda : Saving the highest mountain peak in the Middle East
https://www.change.org/p/kornet-al-sawda-saving-the-highest-mountain-in-the-middle-east?recruiter=143111265&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

[1] HospitalityNews Middle East
http://www.hospitalitynewsmag.com/en/event/alkumma

Other documents

Source: http://www.hospitalitynewsmag.com/en/event/alkumma
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Lebanon_alkumma1.jpg

Other comments:We would like to thank Dr. Jad Abou-Arraj and Dr. Mounir Abi-Said for taking the time to meet with us and discuss the outcomes of this project.

Meta information

Contributor:Nour El Korek and Sarah Karam, on behalf of KariaNet iniatiative at the American University of Beirut.
Last update28/09/2017

Images

 

Source: http://www.hospitalitynewsmag.com/en/event/alkumma