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Lebanon activists cite win for heritage preservation

Lebanon activists cite win for heritage preservation
From Al Jazeera - October 13, 2017

Lebanon's heritage has received a significant boost as the government approved a new protection law this week.

The draft law was handed over to parliament on Thursday, and heritage activists say they will now focus on lobbying MPs to ensure the proposed protections are put in place.

"The law protecting archaeological and heritage buildingsis a historic step," Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury said. "From now on, no heritage buildings will be removed to be replaced by skyscrapers."

For years, Lebanese heritage activists have called for laws protecting buildings and sites of historical and cultural significance.

Beirut in particular has witnessed rampant overdevelopment, as elegant Ottoman and French Mandate-era villas - along with more ancient structures, including a Roman hippodrome - have been replaced by clashing modern developments.

Soon after the conclusion of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, a government survey counted approximately 2,000 buildings in Beirut of cultural and historical significance. The most recent study in 1997, conducted by the Directorate-General of Urban Planning, recorded just 572, with scores more estimated to have been razed since then.

"The heritage situation has become indecent,"architect Antoine Atallah, the vice president of Save Beirut Heritage, a pro-preservation NGO, told Al Jazeera. "It has really become a hot topic."

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