Taamir Ain AL Helwe | New Urban Vision

Year: 2021

 

Partners: Saida Municipality, Beirut Arab University, Rafik Hariri University, and the Disaster Risk Management Unit at the Federation of Municipalities of Saida – Zahrani

 

Sectors: Governance, Infrastructure & Services, Social Welfare & livelihood.

 

Taamir Ain Al Helwe Neighborhood | General Background

Following the destructive earthquake of 1956, the Lebanese state established the National Institute for Construction “Taamir” under Law 107/1956 on April 9, 1956 (24 days after the earthquake). The institute aimed to help the people affected by this event all over Lebanon by implementing several shelter projects. In Saida, the project supported the entire community of Old Saida to resettle in a new location of Tammir Ain Al Helwe  (TAAH) near the newly established refugee camp of Ain Al Helwe. The construction of the buildings was completed in the early 1960s, being “Ain Al Helwe project” the largest public residential project in the history of the Lebanese state. For years to follow, the area’s livelihood was greatly affected by wars and local conflicts, which left long-term physical damage, social grievances, as well as socio-economic deprivation. Amidst the instability, residential and commercial units increased from an initial 1050 units to 3000 units, marking Taamir Ain Al Helwe as one of the largest informal settlements in Lebanon outside refugee camps and unplanned areas. Currently, TAAH neighborhood is an adjacent area to the Ain Al Hilwe camp, the largest and most crowded Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The Taamir area is one of the most vulnerable and marginalized urban areas in Lebanon that houses more than 4,000 families (almost 14,000 dwellers) in around 2,500 units from Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian nationalities. Residents in this area are living in deteriorated living conditions under the poverty line, deprived of basic urban services, and segregated from the rest of the city and its institutions and firms. Despite the numerous local relief and infrastructural interventions held by Hariri Foundation, Saida Municipality, and other partners, the economic and financial crises which first hit Lebanon in 2019 have worsened the social and economic status of the Taamir area, and have raised risks of poverty and extreme poverty, which has adverse long-term effects on different aspects of the vulnerable families and individuals, including education and employment.

 

Creating an Urban Vision

In June 2021, HF established partnerships with Beirut Arab University, Rafik Hariri University, the Municipality of Saida, and the Disaster Risk Management Unit at the Federation of Municipalities of Saida – Zahrani in order to develop an urban vision for the Taamir Ain Al Helwe. To achieve this goal, an academic team of 30 engineers and architects from the city, was connected and trained in various fields to be able to build and understand the structure and new dynamic of TAAH. During a period of three months, the team conducted three types of surveys for 1550 residential and commercial units to identify the urban and social problems precisely and scientifically. As a next step and building on the outcomes of the survey conducted (all inputs feed into a central GIS system), data-driven policymaking, available studies, and using research and technical tools, participants were engaged in a creative exercise for developing tailored urban interventions in Taamir Ain Al Helwe through designing technical solutions within specific areas of intervention. Finally, after several consultation sessions held with local residents, in which the results of the surveys and studies were presented,the ideas of the proposed technical solution were elaborated into a set of projects with specific goals.

 

Methodology

In the context of scarce data for TAAH, there was an urgent need for reliable spatialized information on which holistic, multisector, multi-actor mitigation approaches can be based to support the process of determining priorities and projects that must be implemented that help achieve the program goals. HF Adopted an area-based approach to data gathering, where defined residential units were the point of entry for several surveys conducted, in addition to social consultations, and key informative interviews (KIIs). Data gathered was analyzed with the help of academics and experts in the fields of engineering and sustainable development. As a result, a multi-sectoral study was developed for TAAH creating a neighborhood profile showing the reality of the region that helped determine the main challenges residents in TAAH are facing and the projects that must be implemented to address those challenges.