Middle East
27 May 2016

Lebanon declares protected area in the World Heritage Site of Byblos

Byblos Harbour © Philip Hayward
Byblos Harbour © Philip Hayward
By Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)

The World Heritage Site of Byblos is now officially the 17th Hima in Lebanon. The announcement took place in the municipality of Byblos with the presence of SPNL team and the municipality vice-president Ayoub Bark.

Byblos (Jbail in Arabic) is the Greek name of the Phoenician city of Gubla or Gebal. It is a modern city located 40 km north of Beirut which inherited a long and rich history shaped by many cultures. Today Byblos is a World Heritage Site. It is inhabited since Neolithic times and is often referred to as the “oldest continuously inhabited city” in the world. It is host to various important archaeological sites, including a very old port.

Hima means protected area in Arabic; it is a community-based approach used for the conservation of sites, species, habitats, and people in order to achieve the sustainable use of natural resources. It originated from more than 1,500 years ago where it was spread along the Arab Peninsula as a “tribal” system of sustainable management of natural resources. SPNL (BirdLife Lebanon) is reviving the Hima approach in collaboration with municipalities in order to promote the conservation of Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

For several thousand years it was called Gubla and later Gebal, while the term Canaan was applied to the coast in general. In 1200 BC, the Greeks gave it the name Phoenicia, referring to the coastal area. And they called the city Byblos (Papyrus in Greek), because this commercial centre was important in the papyrus trade.

Throughout the years, Byblos did not lose its reputation; thousands of people from across the world visit Lebanon yearly, and mark it as their number one destination to experience and explore the city that bore witness to the beginnings of the Phoenician civilization. Today, Byblos is a thriving modern city that still retains its rich historical past.

The announcement of Byblos becoming a Hima is truly delightful news and a great success to convince its citizens to join the SPNL Hima system. As Byblos is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it needs to start building on its cultural and historical attributes to devise its environmental plan. The city needs to address several aspects to promote social cohesion, city peacefulness and economic prosperity to protect its environment and to control chaotic urban development.

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SPNL will develop a framework within the Environmental Hima plan to understand environmental limits and responsibilities. The plan will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that weaves sustainable urban development, ecosystem and resource management, cultural and natural landscape preservation, and human well-being.

The conclusion of the work should lead SPNL to develop a wide array of suggestions that are necessary to protect the environment and cultural landscape of the city.