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.