Inclusive and Sustainable Territories and Landscapes Platform


The territorial planning situation in Lebanon faces several challenges starting with uncontrolled urban sprawl, fragmented planning strategies, weak legislative background, etc. Moreover, urban planning practice is not administered through one cohesive entity; this led to the presence of multiple actors (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment…) with insufficient coordination strategies. Environmental degradation (i.e. water pollution and deficiencies in solid waste management) impacts the poor the most. Gender inequalities are very pronounced in Lebanon; and inequality in the access to education affects a big share of the population.   

The country is currently facing several challenges mainly due to the Syrian Crisis Refugees (estimated number around 1.5 million refugees) with heavy impact on natural resources management in Lebanon. In Addition, Lebanon is going through a very serious economic crisis that could lead to a dramatic increase in poverty. 

FAO assistance in Lebanon is shaped by the 2016‑2019 FAO Country Programming Framework (CPF), which is centered on two main government priority areas of technical cooperation:

➨ Expanding economic and livelihood opportunities for the benefit of local economies and the most vulnerable communities

➨ Improving the performance of the agriculture sector with respect to economic, social, environmental and sustainable rural development. 

Relevant public institutions

The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) established in 1977 as an independent public entity under the authority of the Council of Ministers, is the key institution responsible for reconstruction projects on the national level. Complementarily, the Directorate General of Urban Planning (DGUP) is a central spatial planning public administration, responsible for developing and reviewing master plans in all Lebanese territories in collaboration with Municipalities and their Unions, which have been revealed as dynamic networks of actors with merged resources and capabilities regarding planning and development initiatives at the local level. 

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment are also key institutional actors, at the national level, the first responsible for improving the performance of the agriculture sector and the sustainable rural development; and the second one for the protection of the biodiversity and the natural resources in the country.  



Political and Legal Framework

Planning Tools  

The National Physical Master Plan for the Lebanese Territory (NPMPLT), developed by CDR in 2009 is a comprehensive land-use plan for the entire Lebanese territory and provides recommendations and general guidelines at the national level. The main goals are: (i) structuring the territory along main urban centers linked with a well-organized transportation network, preserving natural resources; and (ii) developing an economic plan.  

This Plan was the first initiative in Lebanon to distinguish between areas as “urban”, “rural”, “agricultural” and “natural”. In addition, the NPMPLT defines the hierarchy of urban areas and environmental protection consideration for the land use in three distinguished entities: high mountains; cedar and mountain tree plantation corridor; and valleys, forests of quality and other zones of ecological continuity. This Plan faces several challenges ranging from political issues to financial issues and rapid urban transformations which should be continuously updated in the plan. 

Planning Laws and Regulations 

The Urban Planning Code, issued by the decree-law of 1983, is considered the most important planning law, addressing planning at the level of the entire Lebanese territory.  

The Code of the Environment (2002) establishes the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirement to evaluate the implications of certain types of projects on neighboring populations and the environment. However, the impact of projects on the environment is not yet fully endorsed.  

Other laws and decrees related to territorial planning: Decree 4810/1966 on the protection of the coastline; Laws on the protection of natural sites (1939) and forests (1966). However, these laws are weakly applied. 

Finally, it should be noted that Lebanon has been designating protected areas since the 1930s. The existing classification of protected areas includes Natural Reserves / Sites, Protected Forests, Touristic Sites and Himas.  

Budget patterns and public spending

Budget allocation for the NPMPLT: Ministry’s budgets; Municipal contributions; Specific tax revenues (fines, parking, even oil products); Attracting investments: The establishment of three development agencies to encourage investments within or with association to IDAL mainly in Tripoli, Zahle and Nabatiyeh. 

Budget allocation for Public Investments: the implementation of listed projects within sector ministries and other public entities generally depend on available external funding programs. 

Budget allocation for Municipal operations: Local tax revenues, external funding mechanisms such as NGO’s or international donors.  

The CDR being the credible and efficient public institution receives many international and national funds for large scale projects across the Lebanese territory.  

International donors play a main role in funding regional development projects, such us World Bank, UNHABITAT, UNDP, the European Union, etc. However, interventions are mostly non-contextual and fragmented, lacking coordination among them. 

Municipalities have weak resources of municipalities, in addition to their restrictive regulatory power 



Main programs and projects backing territorial and landscape approaches

Some of the largest projects and plans at the national scale are: 

In relation with Territorial Development: 


  • the Project for the Promotion of agriculture livelihoods and employment, with the support of FAO (Netherlands, US$8.25 million, 2017-2020) provides matching grants to small farmers to invest in land reclamation and water reservoirs; the Project “Boosting the resilience of small‑scale family farming (EU, 3 million euros, 2016-2017), helped improve the food security, nutrition and livelihoods of vulnerable Lebanese households, of which 52 percent were headed by women. The Project targeted households in areas most affected by the Syrian crisis;  
  • the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (a joint plan Government -international and national partners, ,2017-2020), offers responses through long-term and multi-year planning to ensure protection of displaced Syrians, vulnerable Lebanese and Palestinian refugees and reinforce Lebanon’s stability.
  • the Capital Investment Program (with an investment need estimated in $20.4 billion) can be an effective tool to help reinforce Lebanon's delipidated infrastructure, abetting a boost in economic growth.  

In relation with the landscape approach: 


  • Local Development Support Project in North Lebanon (EU €18M, 2012) to improve the economic performance, well-being, and environmental protection in the region of Akkar     
  • Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System (GIAHS) (FAO, 2002) to promote awareness about sustainable agriculture and to safeguard the social, cultural, economic and environmental goods and services.  
  • Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (Ministry of Agriculture, FAO and active participation of civil society, 2016) has implemented pilot restoration actions involving restoration of abandoned agricultural stone terraces in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR) and in Kadisha Valley. 
  • Smart Adaptation of Forest Landscapes in Mountain Areas (SALMA) (FAO  in partnership with the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF),), a five-year project with main purpose integration of forests into community planning the project will contribute to the Government’s “40 Million Trees Programme”, while also helping communities increase their resilience to climate change-related erosion, outbreaks of forest pests and the risk of forest fire. 



Obstacles for actions with territorial and Landscape approaches

The general territorial planning situation in Lebanon faces several challenges starting with uncontrolled urban sprawl, fragmented planning strategies and decision-making processes, weak legislative background, and several spatial transformations. Territorial approach is frequently limited to land-use planning. 

Key territorial issues are neglected in planning considerations (such as poverty alleviation, economic needs, social and spatial segregation). 

Territorial policy is not recognized as an administrative or public policy neither by the central government nor by local authorities, which leads to the emergence/presence of multiple actors, lacking coordination.  

The provision of short-term solutions by the initiatives and projects implemented by local actors and NGO’s has limited or no impact on business development and job creation.  


Territorial and landscape policies in Lebanon are fragmented and insufficiently coordinated. At the institutional level, the absence of a public entity assigned for territorial/urban/landscape planning constitutes a major challenge.   In this context, however, Municipalities and the Union of Municipalities are gaining importance as engaged actors promoting new approaches of integrated development in Lebanon, regardless of their weak budgetary capabilities.  

The territorial development in Lebanon should look for stability and integrated development by giving priority to natural resources management as well as to sustainable agriculture practices. 


The region of Akkar, in the North of the country, is generally described as one of the most disadvantaged areas in Lebanon: the situation worsened in recent years due to the political situation, the alarming social situation, and the lack of economic alternatives. Currently, this territory faces high poverty rates and a very conservative and traditional culture. The agricultural sector is constrained by several factors (water shortages and pollution, lack of agricultural policies and proper planning, etc). Land tenure systems cause the fragmentation and abandonment of arable lands. 

In order to improve the well-being of inhabitants, and to assure a well-balanced regional development, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) implemented the Support to local development in Northern Lebanon Project (ADELNORD, in French abbreviation) from 2010 to 2015. With a budget of 18 million euros, funded by the EU, the project addressed the poorest part of Lebanon by co-funding  rural development sub-projects and initiatives.  

Within this framework, the CDR initiated the Strategic Sustainable Regional Development Plan (SSRDP) in parallel with the elaboration of the related Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as a pilot experience to implement the National Physical Master Plan at the regional level. The Plan was developed in close coordination with various international donors in addition to consultations with national and local experts.  

The SSRDP addressed three aspects: “Agricultural Infrastructures” (Innovative projects for encouraging agro-industry in the region); “Community Development”(in close collaboration with municipalities aiming at improving the living conditions of population and alleviate the impact of poverty through special grants devoted to community projects); and “Environment” (including the construction of controlled dumpsites, the development of a National Park in Upper Akkar, the preservation of a group of coastal sites; etc). The plan pursued the improvement of well-being, economic performance, and environmental protection.  

The initiative proposes to strengthen social capital through a community development component which aims to improve living conditions and alleviate the impact of poverty on the population through supporting special grants devoted to community projects by the beneficiaries themselves, and fostering their participation in the analysis and identification of issues, and taking responsibility for decisions regarding their vision for the future of their region. 

The Plan mentions the need for national level management of regional development, the need to create an inter-ministerial coordination body and the need for a coordinator between the national and regional levels, through the Mohafez, a Regional Development Agency, or other. The plan specified several projects to be carried out by local communities through small grant contracts (400.000 euros), and other projects that should be implemented by the CDR. 

In despite of the difficulties for implementation, this planning process initiated the creation of a network of urban planning experts; built up a long term  "territorial vision”; and started a new path, since the designed Plan, could be the basis of future regional plans across Lebanese regions. This case shows the importance of both raising awareness on the new integrated approaches for the development; and the crucial need for resources mobilization.  

CASE STUDY: Sustainable Land Management in the Qaraoun Catchment Area

The Bekaa Governorate is the major agrarian zone in the Republic of Lebanon. It is the first productive region of agricultural products and has a great potential to develop sustainable tourism, especially in the fields of gastronomy, agriculture and culture. In terms of natural resources, there are Nature and Biosphere Reserves, important water sources, birds areas and key biodiversity areas.  

The region suffers from a deterioration of landscapes as well as of natural and cultural heritage. The urban development dynamic is fragmenting the territory, which lacks of major infrastructure networks. This has major negative impact on rural as well as food security. The government policies do not consider enough farming and the conservation of natural resources as a national priority. The development of this region requires restructuring and new planning strategies to face challenges in  agriculture (e.g. inappropriate use of pesticides and fertilizers, abandonment of arable lands due to urban expansion and unplanned development; low degree of digitalization of farmers,etc); industry (some of the heavy industries are scattered in urban areas as well as agricultural lands, while others are located along main roads and arteries causing traffic congestion as well as pollution of residential zones, rivers, etc); water quality, etc. 

The Ministry of Environment initiated the process, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), to implement the Sustainable Land Management in the Qaraoun Catchment Project funded by the GEF ($3,2 million) and UNDP (0.3 millions). The main project objective is to embed sustainability considerations in land use planning and development activities in the Qaraoun Catchment area. The specific project objectives are: (i) reshaping land and natural resource management in order to alleviate land degradation; (ii) maintaining existing ecosystem services; (iii) and improving livelihoods. 

Three districts were targeted (Zahle, West Bekaa, and Rachaya) taking into account its natural coherence, in the framework of a watershed basin of one of Lebanon’s most important river, the Litani river.  

This is one of the first projects in Lebanon elaborating master plans for the whole region (both detailed urban plans and local plans) with a long-term territorial vision. These plans includes not only territorial  diagnostics but action measures, in the framework of which 14 interventions are proposed and will be submitted to international funding once the study is completed in January 2020. The interventions include the preservation of hills and landscapes; protection of cultural heritage sites; reservation of areas designated with high ecological values; creation of ecological corridors; restoration of degraded areas and abandoned quarries; promotion of sustainable water resources management and groundwater: sustainable irrigation methods: and natural hazards risk control.  

The most relevant contribution of this Project has been the provision of an instrument for the sustainable planification at the regional level under the landscape approach: The land use/ecological/biodiversity Monitoring and Management system. This instrument is intended to provide multiple benefits including deciding on permitting provisions, updating land use plans, and disseminating data on land use.  It will help also provide data to support improved understanding of impacts on soil, water, vegetation and animals and improve reporting on management practices to sustain these natural resources.  

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