The Power Plant Forest In Lebanon

The Power Plant Forest initiative in the city of Jounieh, 20 km north of Beirut in Lebanon, driven by the architecture firm theOtherDada, aims to fight the air pollution in the area around the Zouk Mosbeh power plant. The people involved are doing this by planting a forest on a highly visible site as a sign of change.

The biggest ally for COVID-19 is the pollution in the air. It has weakened our immune systems, and our respiratory tracts, in particular, making us more vulnerable to viruses like the Coronavirus. So, initiatives that aim to improve the air quality and lower the levels of pollution are beneficial, and at the same time, need to be cost-effective and uncomplicated to put into practice.

Adib Dada, founder of the Beirut-based architecture firm theOtherDada is doing just that. His various environmental activities, like Beirut RiverLESS, involved taking back the Beirut river through a series of replicable interventions using the area’s biodiversity to rehabilitate lost ecosystems and improve the living conditions and quality of life of people in the city who live along the river. Reforestation is an essential part of his strategy, adopted using the innovative Miyawaki technique, a method developed in Japan to return native species to areas affected by deforestation or cities in need of an environmental boost. Weeds and undesirable plants are pulled out from the roots by hand, so they don’t suffocate the growing native species.

After two urban forest sites in Beirut, including Sin al-Fil, Lebanon’s very first urban forest, this initiative called “TheOtherForest”, guided by Adib Dada is stationed at Jounieh. It was a fishing village in the past and now a city of more than 115,000 about 20km north of the capital of Lebanon. Here, in Zouk Mosbeh, is a massive power plant that burns fossil fuels. The grey plumes of smoke rising from the plant’s chimneys can be seen kilometers away, and the spread of polluted air from the power plant has classified Jounieh as one of the most polluted cities in Lebanon and the MENA region, producing record levels of nitrogen dioxide.

Karelle Rizk, a young sustainability researcher, has been living with the detrimental effects her whole life, and she contacted Dada to talk to him about the site. Together, they took the idea of an urban forest in Zouk Mosbeh to the mayor of Jounieh, who was in favor of their proposal. After an eight-month wait, they were finally allowed to initiate fundraising activities and kick off the Power Plant Forest initiative with the social enterprise, Afforestt as the first step towards cleaner air on a highly exposed site. The site is a triangular strip of land, very visible because it stands amidst a high-traffic area, which makes it a great tool to raise awareness with the general public. The forest will grow on this 200-square-meter lot between two busy streets, next to a flyover, the chaotic highway, and with the ‘power plant of death’ as a backdrop. 720 plantings of 17 native trees will help reduce air pollution and noise pollution. At the same time, it will help to regenerate the lost biodiversity.