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Fouad Boutros Highway, Lebanon


The Fouad Boutros highway project is being promoted as the solution for road traffic and congestion in the heavily populated Achrafieh. However, activists, urban planners and environmental experts are against the implementation of the project claiming that it will aggravate traffic problems rather than solving them. Experts estimate that the highway project will cause the complete or partial demolition of approximately 30 buildings, some with high heritage value. Some of them also believe that there could be more buildings to be devastated and stated that the violent obliteration of the previous few decades is intolerable. These people also found that the demolition of properties and buildings can lead to economic problems for the residents since some of them claim not having enough money to rent or buy other apartments if the buildings were demolished. These residents are not properly, if at all, compensated by the government.   Additionally, activists and environmental professionals affirm that the implementation of the highway project is enormously harmful to the environment. According to them, the highway will lead to a great loss of the remaining greenery and biodiversity in the designated area because it will require the up-rooting of about 100 trees and the destruction of approximately 10,000 Sqm of green spaces. In response to these claims and to show activists and residents that the project is environment-friendly, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) presented a map on which plants and trees are planted on the highway. However, activists and residents said that these trees will not be able to survive for a long time because of the hot weather of Beirut and that the trees will never replace the ancient ones that will be removed from gardens. Moreover, activists and experts found that the project causes a drastic increase in the air and noise pollution rates due to the increase of traffic and huge car flows on the highway as well as the streets leading to it. Experts assert that pollution will be most horrible at the entrance and exit of the tunnel because gases and fumes become concentrated inside and then evacuated at both ends. This has a huge impact on residents of the area since, according to international standards; it is prohibited to construct residential buildings at the ends of the tunnel. However, in the case of the highway project, the tunnel is located at the heart of a residential area which also includes academic, educational and health establishments. The escalation of the air and noise pollution problems will push people away from residing in the area.

The Civil Coalition against Fouad Boutros highway, comprised of residents and experts, organized two protests on Saturday and Sunday (1-2 March 2014) in Mar Mikhael and Rmeil respectively. Protesters named the project “criminal” since they believed that it will lead to the death of Lebanon’s cultural heritage as well as the pollution of the environment. They also recommended that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be conducted before implementing the project. Moreover, these residents and activists developed an online petition against the construction of Fouad Boutros highway which was signed by more than 3,000 persons. It is also important to note that the coalition blamed the municipality of working illegally since they began with the implementation of the project while the environmental study was still in its earliest phases. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Fouad Boutros Highway, Lebanon
State or province:Beirut
Location of conflict:Beirut
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Fouad Boutros Highway project which is also known as the “Hekmeh-Turk” axis plan crosses Achrafieh, Rmeil and Medawar districts while splitting down the middle of the historic Mar Mikhael and Hekmeh neighbourhoods. It consists of a 1.3 km four-lane highway that links Alfred Naccache Road near Spinneys to the Charles el Helou highway near Beirut port. The project entails a series of crossings, a tunnel and underground parkings. The tunnel proceeds near the left edge of the Greek Orthodox church and then turns sharply to the right before continuing down to Salah Labki Street and then proceeds towards Armenia Street in Mar Mikhael. As for the underground parkings, the plan is to build one near Hekmeh High- School to serve the trading area, a second one near Electricity of Lebanon to serve Mar Mikhael and a third one after the intersection with Salah Labki road to serve the residential area and the Hospital of Saint George. The construction of this highway aims to reduce road traffic and congestion in Achrafieh which is a heavily populated city as well as providing parking spots for approximately 750 cars. In addition, it also aims to provide additional entrance and exit to the city of Beirut.

The project was outlined in the 1950’s as a part of the “EchoChard” Master plan that was prearranged for the aim of the urbanization of central Beirut and its suburbs and it included the construction of highways in Beirut and its surroundings. Although the highway’s project was outlined six decades ago by the Beirut municipality, it was not put into action until 2012 because of the beginning of the Lebanese civil war in the 1975. It was the modified in 1983, 1996 and in May 2012 under Decree No. 8228.

To build the new highway, the municipality of Beirut paid from its funds to the Council for Reconstruction and Development (CDR) which will work in cooperation with MATTA contracting company. The council for development and Reconstruction (CDR) stated that the Beirut Municipality started taking over lands for the construction of the highway since 1966. Moreover, it had expropriated the road located between Charles el Malek Avenue and Armenia Street by 1975. However, after the onset of the Lebanese Civil war, land expropriation was halted. Thus, the municipality needs to expropriate new lands if it wants to construct the highway.

The project will also require the demolition of about 30 buildings and the destruction of approximately 10000 sqm of greenspaces.

Project area:169
Level of Investment:75,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/03/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Matta Et Associes from Lebanon - Build the Highway
Relevant government actors:Municipality of Beirut
Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR)
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Public Works
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Civil Coalition against the “Hikmeh-Turk” Axis
Beirut Madinati

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Air pollution
Other Health impactsRespiratory Problems/ Lung Cancer
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Development of alternatives:The Civil Coalition against the Fouad Boutros highway which consists of several local Environmental Justice Organizations (SBH, ALPH, etc.) as well as scientists and experts suggests building Fouad Boutros Park instead of the highway. This park which aims at conserving the green spaces and the remaining cultural heritage, should consist of public spaces and cultural venues for people to spend their holidays and vacations. Additionally, the Civil Coalition also recommends that the government should build a tunnel under Charles el Malek Avenue which will link Downtown with Emile Lahoud Avenue located in the east. This tunnel serves for the same purpose of the current highway plan; it is supposed to reduce road traffic and congestion but is more cost effective.
Moreover, Beirut Madinati and other NGOs (such as NAHNOO) suggest that a shift to public and shared modes of transportation would be efficient in reducing traffic and pollution (buses, taxies, etc.). For the same purpose, soft modes of mobility such as Biking were also suggested to a lesser extent.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:According to the director of Nahnoo NGO, Mohamad Ayoub, the mobilization was successful because protestors called for conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to the implementation of the project. The results of the EIA were against the execution of the project, thus, its achievement is now illegal. However, the project is suspended currently; the municipality of Beirut did not yet propose to cancel it.

Sources and Materials

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

Highway to Hell - Automobile Oriented Urban Development: The Case of Fouad Boutros Highway in Beirut

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The Fouad Boutrous Highway

!الأشرفية في خطرأرشيف/537606-الأشرفية-في-خطر

Road to nowhere

The full story of the controversial Fouad Boutros Road in Ashrafieh

Proposed highway through Mar Mikhael prompts outrage

All you need to know on the Fouad Boutros Project and the Protests planned this weekend

The Full Story of The Controversial Fouad Boutros Project in Achrafieh

Activists, experts cry foul over Fouad Boutros Highway

Fouad Boutros

WIll it work? Official Boutros road map


A civil mobilisation against the "Fouad Boutros" highway

Fouad Boutros Project

Fight builds for Beirut's cultural heritage

Activists in Beirut are combating a municipality-backed road project they say will cut through historic neighbourhoods

حمد: مشروع جادة فؤاد بطرس

ينسجم مع المفاهيم البيئيّة وليس تهجيريّــاًحمد-مشروع-جادة-فؤاد-بطرسينسجم-مع-المفاهيم-البيئية-وليس-تهجيريا

The Fouad Boutros project raises more questions than it answers

Activists propose alternative to Fouad Boutros highway

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Civil Coalition against the Highway Project "Hekmeh-Turk" Axis Facebook Page

Online Petition

Other documents

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests against Fouad Boutros Highway

Protests against Fouad Boutros Highway

Meta information

Contributor:Tala Meraaby, Asfari Institute, AUB
Last update05/09/2017



Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests Against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests against Fouad Boutros Highway


Protests against Fouad Boutros Highway