‘Lil Madina’ is a group of people working for a better Saida, their objectives include protecting public areas, tackling environmental problems and developing new visions for their city.
The southern Lebanese coastal city of Saida, still enjoys the presence of rivers, orchards and public beaches. ‘Lil Madina’ or ‘For the City’ is a civil and independent activism group which was formed three years ago to confront developments that are threatening various historical and natural assets in the city as well as increasing socio-economic differences in the greater saida region.
Ismael Sheikh Hassan said that he and the other founders wanted ‘Lil Madina’ “to rediscover the place we live in, to rebuild a relationship with nature and our surrounding environment and to find ways to positively impact the projects implemented in the city.”
Today Saida faces several urban development challenges, which is dominated by real estate developers whose focus is to generate private profit and often at the expense of the public interest. Saida is not being challenged by effective institutions and lacks the debate needed to address many threats such as pollution, traffic congestion and erasing many of the city’s natural and historical resources.
Creating such a group in Saida is in itself an achievement. It has the ability to create a different kind of debate as well as produce a different kind of vision about how the city should be developed. ‘Lil Madina’ is composed of both activists and professionals (architects, urban planners, environmental experts, historians etc.) who are trying to negotiate the complex political and technical challenges that confront th city. Moreover, ‘Lil Madina’s’ main resources are its volunteers and the city residents who are willing to invest their time, knowledge and own resources to protect their city.
The group works through producing research, electronic/printed publications, providing technical support to local municipalities as well as mobilizing local communities. One of its current projects is working on the restoration of Amleh River as public and natural resource for Saida. Its work on this project will soon be published in a book For Saida, where public discourse and questions over development have long been dominated by mainstream political parties, the emergence of such a new voice is quite significant and worth counting on.