Beyond Image: The Effects of the Visual Noise in the City of Damascus. By S. Farah for Syria Comment

Damascus is a legendary city. Described by the Roman emperor Julian as the “Pearl of the East”, its landscape is defined by three natural features that also have historical significance: The Kassioun Mountain where Cain is believed to have murdered Able; the Barada River where St. Paul was baptized; and the Ghuta, the legendary lush green belt that once encircled the city and earned it the title “Paradise of the Orient”. It is said that the Prophet Muhammad refused to enter Damascus because he believed that “man should only enter Paradise once.”

Damascus_circa_1700ad

The past 50 years however saw a confluence of factors that put tremendous pressure on the city. The most notable is an exponential population growth. This was the result of several factors. First, for a strange and as of yet unexplained reason, Syria’s birthrate has been one of the highest in the world, higher than any other country in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, the Arab Israeli war brought to the city waves of Palestinian refugees who are still languishing in refugee camps, their number today is estimated to be around 400,000.  Furthermore, the proximity of Damascus to the frontline with Israel necessitated a massive military build up around the city that brought with it a large numbers of military personals.  All this, plus a large migration of people from the rural area seeking better jobs and government jobs concentrated in the capital that otherwise could be located in other cities, resulted in a ten-fold growth of the city’s population over the past 50 years.  Today it is estimated that 3.6-4 million people live in Damascus — this, even before the recent wave of Iraqi refugees that flooded the city after the US invasion of Iraq. For many years Syria’s GDP lagged and government spending on infrastructures stalled. The results have been devastating on many levels with around 40% of the city now an unplanned development. The city is suffering from one of the lowest ratio of parks and open areas per capita in the world and the stress on its infrastructure is beginning to show by the acute shortage of water and electricity.

While the big, apparent and most pressing planning and infrastructural issues are being addressed, perhaps the most destructive force that is contributing to the degradation of the city has been the lax enforcement of the city’s building code.  Residents feel free to install whichever accessory they wish on the facade of their apartment or store.  Today in any one building each floor can have different windows and shutters, and balconies are modified, screened, glazed or enclosed.  One balcony might be converted into a sunroom, another balcony on the same building can have ornate byzantine style stone wall decoration, and yet another balcony above can have a modern style wood finishing with recessed lights.  People are free to hang their laundry to dry off of these balconies even if they face the main street.  Signs and posters also litter the seen with no guiding style or rule.  Government buildings are some of the worst offenders; these buildings are often rundown with big signs announcing the occupant of the building, in addition to haphazardly placed banners disfiguring the entire façade.  Posters advertising entertainment events, the passing of a member of the community, or introducing a new plumbing service can be plastered on any surface.  The worst of all signs are the long fabric signs that can be stretched across the street, often torn and forgotten months after the event had ended.   Any city pole seems to be a free for all to hang their advertisement or sign.  All this leads to the loss of the original architectural features of buildings, and either destroys or creates an unruly character of the city.

Crowd control is another big challenge. You can hardly find a stanchion anywhere in the city; consequently people mostly crowd for services, and seldom queue for anything. Again this is worst at government agencies.

Littering is also becoming a major concern. On my last trip to Damascus the road to the airport was littered with plastic bags stretching along the right side of the highway all the way from Bab Sharqi to the parking lot of the airport.  As a matter of fact this problem has began to attract the attention of tourists. Martina Schmidt, an art historian and archaeologist fascinated by Syria and its treasures, was so offended by this seemingly ubiquitous plastic litter she thought it was one of the worst examples she has ever seen even worse than Vietnam.  Unfortunately, these plastic bags, which seem to litter the whole country, are now a part of the world literary heritage as they were referred to by the author Stephanie Saldana in her wonderful book The Bread of Angels about her one-year experience living in Syria. All this disorder contribute to a seen of chaos and visual noise.

Damascus_visual_noise

The broken windows theory, the brainchild of the psychologists James Wilson and George Kelling, can help explain and pave the way toward a solution to this crisis of visual noise in Syria. Willson and Kelling argue that if in a neighborhood windows are broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken and the sense of anarchy will spread from one street to the next, sending a signal that anything goes. In a city, minor problems like the unsightly electric wires traversing the exterior of buildings, litter, laundry on balconies and unsightly satellite dishes contribute to the broken window psychology — the sense that no one is in control. The famed author Malcolm Gladwell used this theory in his book The Tipping Point, to explain how trends spread and become contagious.

Today, social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if these minor violations are left unrepaired, they will, as a contagious disease, spread from one street to another. This is as true in affluent neighborhoods as in poor ones.

What’s fascinating is that the mere perception of disorder, even with seemingly irrelevant petty minor violation of building code, precipitates a negative feedback loop that can result in total disorder. Violation of building codes leads to perception of corruption, even when they are merely due to Lack of enforcement.  One also has to wonder whether the recent rise in crime in Damascus like purse snatching and home burglaries is not a result of the continuation of the downward spiral of this negative feedback loop.

So what start as a simple violation, can lead to wide spread visual noise and may lead to larger challenges in community control and increase in crime. The police department In New York city was highly successful in recent years in reducing the crime rate throughout the city and in the subway system by among other measures combating graffiti, and other manifestation of visual noise, and cracking down on petty crime in communities across the city.

These challenges are besetting all the Syrian cities and, are said, to be much worse in the countryside.  Today, the Syrian government seems to be acutely aware of these problems and is taking action.  The ministry of municipal administration is undergoing a modernization project with the help of the EU. There are no less than three groups working on grand municipal plans and urban design for all the Syrian cities and the government introduced a new real estate development law.  The President recently honored the sanitation workers in Syria with a reception and dinner during Ramadan.  There are plans for a tax on plastic bags, and in a pilot project the city of Damascus signed a contract with a private company for cleaning and the disposal of waste in several neighborhoods.  There are also plans for major architectural landmarks, such as the future Rose Center for Childhood Development and Education on the banks of the Barad River, and the government is planning to invest $50 billion in new infrastructures through a BOT model.

Damascus_Rose_Center

Experts and people inside the government today believe that there is an urgency to clean up the city and its countryside from the litter and visual noise.  The facades of buildings are public property, and this should be made clear through a public campaign and also put into the law. It is important to protect the special character for each city and village. All building permits should be approved by the local city council to ensure an architectural and aesthetic standard. Once a building permit has been issued no alteration should be allowed to the exterior of a building without the prior approval of the council.  There is a need for the creation of new enforcement agency to ensure compliance with the building code and law.  A similar agency (such as the one is Singapore) should be created to penalize littering.  These enforcement systems should have zero tolerance for violation to avoid contagion.  Some community leaders are advocating stiff fines for violators and a government backed loan program for individuals to clean up current violations.  The government should also set the example by restoring the façade of the buildings it occupies and it should also set the standard for crowd controls by employing well-groomed hospitality and information agents that help manage the flow of people through its agencies.  These measures will enhance the image of the city, create jobs, and will be a great resource of revenue to the city.  Finally, all these new government urban initiative will fail in the long run unless Syria’s seemingly uncontrolled birthrate moderates to international average. One urban designer familiar with the issues facing Damascus put it in medical terms and said “uncontrolled growth is like cancer; it will lead to death unless it is addressed with decisiveness and urgency.”

Damascus_Ghuta

Comments (50)


1. Alex said:

Thanks S.Farah for writing about the bizarre lack of attention to the image of Damascus, one of the most special cities on this planet.

It is one thing to see different balconies painted with different colors by different occupants of some residential building, but the signs of those ministries that you showed in the photos above are so ugly and so non standard that one has to wonder if anyone over there thought at all about the simplest solution of setting some standard.

Where is our Ph.D. urban Designer (jad)? : )

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May 6th, 2010, 8:04 pm

 

2. why-discuss said:

Alex

I do not agree fully with this article. Yes, platic bags are a curse, yes, facades are not maintained, but most of that are being taken care of gradually. Which other arab country has a law against public smoking? Damascus has very nice and charming downtown gardens compared to Beirut or Amman, come on. This criticism is highly exagerated. Then its come to the noise issue. I was in Montreal recently and I was shocked by the ugliness of the new project and new buildings. They may have been planned by highly skilled PHD urbanisers but not only they are ugly but they have no charm whatsoever. I frankly prefer not only the new buildings in central Damascus ( there are only a few) but also the messy and decrepit buildings of Damascus to the black bricks and the dull modernism of the new Montreal buildings.
It may be a matter of personal taste. There is a lot to do ( and lots of money to spend) in Damascus to restore old souks like Sarujha and other and what I have seen being done is very good and less pretentious that downtown Beirut. It is a matter of time for Damascus to become an attractive arab capital avoiding the artificial glamor that seem to impress so many arabs

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May 7th, 2010, 12:59 am

 

3. jad said:

Dear S Farah
I think that you did a good job in concentrating on couple issues of the city and you connected them to get to the root of the problem which is in short Corruption and Mismanagement.
Your points can be put under two categories Standards and Social/Cultural. Under the Standards category you put together signs, visual noise and litters, under the Social/Cultural you can put the life style, the bad manners and the carelessness of the city’s residents toward their own neighbourhoods, so it’s not always the government’s problem it’s our people too.
Regarding the visual noise, I think local’s translation of beauty come from their cultural background be it from an urban centres or from a village, it doesn’t matter, it is already corrupted, because the visual maturity grow inside the person’s awareness of beauty throughout his/her life not from laws and rules.
A small note about the sign standards; even in most advanced cities there are no such standards signs for the whole city. You may have standards for specific agencies but not the whole municipality so we need to be more realistic about that.
You wrote that we need to implement the law on all and every mistake done by our citizen; I totally agree with you but that alone won’t change the individual sense of beauty or responsibility, does it?
We already have many agencies that supposed to look after such things but almost the entire personal responsible in finding and reporting those violations are corrupt so no point of creating a new agency when the culture of corruption is imbedded in the community, doing that you actually create a new way for corruption to grow, you need to clean what you have first.
For me personally I think there are so many important and more serious issues challenging our cities and more urgent than ‘visual noise’ and ‘litters’.
To name few:
-FIGHT CORRUPTION!
-FIGHT CORRUPTION!
-FIGHT CORRUPTION!
-EDUCATION!
-Protect and sustain our ecosystem and clean up our polluted environment (in Damascus case, revive Barad river by building water treatment plants specifically for the river when it gets in and out of the city. Protect and enlarge the green belt (Ghota) we can get great green fingers like parks sliding inside Damascus urban fabric. And enforce building to use green energy and less water, we heading for bad times we better be ready from now.
-Build a reliable and diverse transit system instead of flooding the city with busses that don’t have space to go and become part of the traffic jam problem
-Involve public in the urban planning and community development and make the whole process clear from day one, nobody knows what’s better for their community than the people living in those communities
-Bring a consortium of urban planner and policy makers like Abou Dabhi did instead of handing Damascus master plan studies under the table to some mediocre company as a favour, planning for Damascus to become a city of 10million inhabitant not 6 and stop concentrating government building on the capital, it doesn’t work for the future.
-Protect our heritage buildings and site from ourselves instead of changing old Damascus into Disney land
-Build real development not some kind of experimental la la land that doesn’t bring any value to the market. They should go for pilot projects in the many neglected prime locations in our city (they better start with Yalbougha disaster!)
Here are some interesting readings about Damascus if anybody likes to know more of how bad the situation is
Urban Planners Unite: Planning a New Living Space
By Peter Ross
http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/june-2009/342-other/1711-urban-planners-unite-planning-a-new-living-space-
بعد مرور 45 عاماً على مخطط /ايكوشار/ العمراني لدمشق
/اقليم دمشق الكبرى/ يتصدر أولويات المخططين بدراسات ومخططات تفصيلية ماتزال على الورق
http://syriasteps.com/index.php?p=152&id=19625
Damascus 2020
http://www.britishsyriansociety.org/dam2020/recommendations.asp
أبنية الحكومة تقلع عين دمشق
http://www.aram-grp.com/index.php?d=219&id=236
أزمتا النقل والمرور في دمشق في عهدة الحلول «الإسعافية والترقيعية» وغياب «الاستراتيجية»
http://www.iqtissadiya.com/archives_detail.asp?id=2719&issue=323&category=local
Since I don’t want everybody to think that I’m so pessimistic here is some ‘hope’ (but I doubt it 😉
The Green Line
http://www.damascus-metro.com/the-project/lang-pref/en/
Finally, my favourite hero in the field of heritage protection activist is Mr. Wa3d Mouhanna, a great writer and excellent activist that they tried to shut him up many times and they will keep doing that but he always comes back stronger and better:
http://www.heartofdamascus.org/
http://mauriceaaek.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/لماذا-تركنا-وعد-مهنا-لوحده-في-مواجهة-و/

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May 7th, 2010, 4:11 am

 

4. Lee Anna Tucker said:

Like Alex, I have mixed feeling about this article, especially its implications.

I certainly agree that completely unregulated building, haphazard architectural additions & embellishments, and the choking flood of plastic litter are huge problems in Damascus, and need urgent attention. As far as the litter goes, it almost seems as though nothing other than regulations combined with a strict fine program would work, because (in my experience) the biggest problem is that the inhabitants have no problem whatsoever with throwing their snack-wrappers and plastic bags wherever feels most convenient at any given moment. Another problem I noticed while living in Syria is the flagrant OVERUSE of plastic bags–often I would go to the grocery and come home with an equal volume of food as black or colorfully striped plastic bags. Or, shopkeepers insist on packing every item into a plastic bag, no matter how small, and even if I already have several plastic bags in tow! Raising public consciousness as to the sheer & unnecessary quantity of plastic they use might be a good way to start remedying this problem, but likely as not nothing will change until they begin to recognize what a blight the litter is on their beloved city–if only they could see it through outsiders’ eyes! Unfortunately, the problem is akin to those of use who let our houses or cars become cluttered: after a while, we become accustomed to the “visual noise” (i.e., MESS) and then it ceases to bother us. Therefore, a realistic solution to the litter problem in Damascus will probably only come when the government begins to enforce regulations prohibiting litter, as with the smoking ban; unfortunately, it seems as though this would be fifty times harder to enforce individually. Perhaps the litter bans would need to affect property owners in relation to their street-fronts; although this would not take care of the highway-side and public area litter problem. In the end, after taking cues from the implementation of the smoking ban, hopefully a more workable government mandated program will become available, because it is certainly necessary, and unlikely to be addressed at the level of the citizenry.

On the flip side of the coin, I must disagree that the “visual noise” in Damascus is such a disturbing phenomenon. In fact, the “visual noise” is one of the things I find most charming about this age-old city! Walking the streets and being able to literally see the layers and reiterations of history via the layers of development and decoration is an amazing experience, and one any tourist will be unlikely to have in any other city. I definitely agree that regulations MUST be developed and ENFORCED because there is a growing problem with the degree and tastefulness of some “enhancements.” Construction standards need to recognize the architectural and historical limitations of the structures being modified, and whereas (as Jad said) regulation of signs may not be able to affect content or style, the government can certainly regulate size, placement, etc. Yet, even that might be a step too far. A broader policy with approval committees and a commitment to organized beautification might be better–though of course, as Jad laments, nothing will come to anything if none of the policies are enforced. As he said, it is not as though building codes and regulations don’t exist–it’s just that no one follows them because (as another Damascene I know and love says) the laws and regulations are like pliable rubber. In the end, whatever policy Damascus implements to get a handle on the “visual clamor,” I cannot agree that it should in any way attempt to stifle the “visual noise.” Arguably, it was as visually noisy in centuries past, and this exotic visual smorgasbord is one of the things that has earned the city its reputation for being a place like no other in the Middle East, or the world. (See, for example, the award-winning picture articled on this site just a few days ago.) The noise should be regulated, but in such a way that preserves the richness, intricacy, and individualism of the Damascene character, because it’s one of the things that can make Damascus so lovely. Again, a dedicated push must of course be made to keep things toward the “lovely” side, instead of letting them get overwhelming and ugly, as is so often the case. However, if you’re ever in Damascus, try walking the streets of Kafir Suse, and then find your way back to the Old City. Compare the two. The new neighborhood is so stark and without character that a stroll there actually becomes boring–whereas on most other Damascus streets, a five-minute jaunt is like a sensory feast (which gets addictive). Don’t stifle the noise–refine it, laud it, make it a point of pride! Repair the old buildings, not just slap new plaster on, or raze and build blocky concrete new one on top of them. Allow each level of each flat building to individualize its design, but within tasteful and regulated limits. Clean the streets! We would all love to see the parts of Damascus we treasure amplified, and those that are only raucous and dirty din scrubbed.

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May 7th, 2010, 2:04 pm

 

5. Joshua said:

Dear Lee Ann – What a wonderful comment. Thanks for joining the discussion. Old Damascus is a sensory feast. Down with plastic and up with feasting. Best, Joshua

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May 7th, 2010, 3:14 pm

 

6. Ahmad Nurani said:

The first picture does not show the “Azma Palace” (which didn’t exist in 1700) but the Umayyad Mosque.

The link you establish between visual noise (which is a real problem in Damascus) and the rise of crime rate is rather unconvincing. There has been mismanagement and disorder for many years in Syria, but crime is a relatively new phenomenon that results from other factors such growing economic inequalities.

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May 7th, 2010, 3:14 pm

 

7. Observer53 said:

I just returned from Damascus and here are some general comments:
1. The higher echelons of the Syrian authorities do recognize that the late President left Syria in complete shambles on many fronts: economic, environment, education, armed forces, and so forth. They are desperately trying to improve all aspects of life and to modernize the society. Unfortunately, they are ahead way ahead of the average citizen whose cynisim is profound and whose outlook is a total disregard for any authority. There is truly a jungle out there of people trying to outdo each other in corruption, nepotism, favoritism, law avoiding and breaking. This has translated into a complete destruction of the Ghouta of Damascus, pollution of the waters and their drying up, and chaos when it comes to construction and urban development.
2. The population is not afraid of more wars. They have become immunized against it and they expect that in case of a war, there will be lots of damage and lots of destruction but they will sustain it and survive and come out stronger even.
3. The influence of Syria and Iran on Iraqi politics is profound with both sides being supported and a revived Baath party seems to be coming out of the ashes in Iraq and in exile.
4. The Lebanese scene is now firmly under the general direction of where Syria wants it to go. They will not interfere with the details as long as Lebanon does not become a staging ground for harm to Syria
5. The armed forces and the alliance with both Iran and HA are stronger than ever and are moving into a new and strategic alliance that aims to deny control of the agenda and the battlefield to Israe.
6. There is an ever increasing diminution of US influence in the region that is being filled by both Turkey and Iran. KSA is in disarray with significant internal strife between the current guard and those allied with Bandar. He remains in the weaker position for now.
7. Egypt is entering an unstable period. The very fact that demonstrations for ALbaradei were allowed indicates that there are factions in the armed forces and in the security and business elites that are not satisfied with a continuation of the status quo with Gamal following his father. The US has AlBaradei and Suleiman as the two horses it is betting on. The latter is too much in the pockets of the Zionists to be credible.
8. Back to Syria, it seems that the failure of the Democracy project in the ME has now allowed for the “families” to consolidate power. This is ominous as the region needs a huge amount of work to avert an economic and resources disaster.
9. Israel is preparing the public opinion to make any mention of support of any Palestinian right tantamount to an indictment for terrorist activities to the point that Gaza is now deprived of NGOs. This is the first of the moves to have one of two outcomes either an excuse to massively deport the Palestinians from Israle and the West Bank or to declare an apartheid state whereby any objection is suppressed with declarations of terrorism and anti semitism.
Europe being on the fence, there has been even talk of bombing Rome and Berlin with nuclear warheads of they put pressure on Israe, this is reminiscent of the Mad Max scenario of Nixon.
10. The Palestinians are in for another catastrophe if the Arab regimes continue to indulge Israel.
11. The US has already given up on a peace process and the US after creating a divide in Iraq and AfPak is set to withdraw while retaining its drone and intervention areas. This is going to be seen as a weakness and will embolden the militans.
12. Iran is now a declared nuclear power and the visit to the NPT conference by the Iranian President has now allowed for the have nots to have a voice.Iran and Brazil will lead the charge on this and China will support as it gives it room to play with the US and favors regaining Taiwan on the long run.
13. Russia and the US have now accepted the sphere of influence and there is no further talk of Ukraine joining NATO.
14. European dream of being a big Swiss Federation free of Foreigners is finished. Perhaps the Euro is finished as well
Cheers on this last one, it has never been messier. I pity the Zionists who will have to admit that the world is right and the project was and is wrong.

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May 7th, 2010, 7:24 pm

 

8. S. Farah said:

Dear JAD thank you for the links the one about the gov building is very well research and written paper. I hope that in your capacity as an urban designer you can offer solutions to the problem. Why is it that buildings in developed countries keep their original façade and in places like Syria they do not. It is not corruption. And I do not believe that Syrians do not care. Many Syrians are very upset by the degradation of their cities. Not Just the expatriates but also the locals and people in government as well. I suggest it is lax enforcement. Perhaps the law is not developed and there aren’t sufficient enforcement agencies. What is missing? In my article I highlighted the role of the broken window theory. This is a true and tested theory implemented in NYC to combat crime.

Obsever 53: Get real,

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May 7th, 2010, 9:09 pm

 

9. Majhool said:

” They are desperately trying to improve all aspects of life and to modernize the society. ”

What else do we need? The higher ups are working on it, and the inertia is just in the people.

The place is in shambles because its an authoritarian state, plain and simple.

Once more, a classic SC make believe.

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May 7th, 2010, 10:04 pm

 

10. almasri said:

Syriacomment is still infected with a high risk virus. Somebody is attempting to prevent SC commentators from visiting the site by trying to infect their computers. I suspect it is one of the regular commentators who keeps defending Israel, AIPAC and the neocons, and who may have realized eventually that he or she is getting nowhere. Here are the details of this virus attack:

Attacker URL: mainsearch.com/gmail.com/
Source address: 217.23.14.14
Attacking computer: mainsearch.com (217.23.14.14.80)
Risk name: HTTP Java Deployment toolkit
Network traffic from mainsearch.com matches the signature of a known risk.
Risk severity: high

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May 7th, 2010, 10:18 pm

 

11. Husam said:

About the virus (the Trojan Horse) which I have alerted and asked several times for an update from Alex and Joshua to respond, and they seem to be silent about it…so I hope they can give us some insight.

Baladi el Sham & Garbage issue:

Even the narrow roads leading to million dollar mansions in Saboura & Yafour are a garbage showcase; my relative pays from his own pocket to clean the street leading to his property. If they are serious in solving this problem, two things need to happen:

1- An executive order from the President’s office bypassing all agencies (i.e. corruption) giving a mandate to structure a massive clean up plan and enforce fines on business as well as private violators (even if 10 lira for private people, the hassle of going to the bank to pay will teach them a lesson). A foreign consultant agency must be hired to oversee this change. The key is to give exercisable direct power “and not just another agency” as JAD touched on.

2- Education & Religion – A task force of educators will visit various schools and give several power point presentation on the elements of the environment and pollution. This can include interesting information about what the plastic bag is made out of, the effects of pollution on wildlife, etc….Basically, this will be added in form of participation credits before graduation which is compulsory with quizzes and tests. Imams and Priest can discuss this issue with listeners at their weekly sermons reminding all of us of our duty to preserve the gift of our beloved historic city.

Three years ago, I was visiting the Aleppo Citadel where I noticed graffiti on many doorways and historical rocks, I couldn’t help but go into the manager’s office with my family and offer the suggestion of security cameras which will deter people from damaging this delicate fabric of such a beautiful place. To my surprise, I was offered candies (yeah, no kidding) and hushed away. When I did not leave, the manager introduced me to some visiting minister while offering more hard candies and signalled for me to go away. The morale of the story: control corruption and incompetent losers must be given the boot.

I disagree with Why Discuss on Montreal’s architecture, which is a blend of new and old. Damascus will never be like Montreal no matter how modern it becomes. Damascus will never loose its charm, the old town, the souks. We should not be afraid of modernization as long as heritage buildings are protected.

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May 8th, 2010, 2:22 am

 

12. pamela said:

Husam has made the points about education ,which I think is the best way to go , especially to children .In the schools there is no education about the envoiroment , getting children to help”save the city “would be a start .
I believe the president has made some executive orders about illegal building, at one time residents were buying roof tops and building appartments on them , some one story appartment blocked became 3 stories !!! Of course this is very dangerous , not only ugly.An executive order was made to ban this , and seems to be holding . Another order which is being enforced is the reduction of satellite dishes on roof tops, which leads to every appartment bulding having one dish for all residents .

Yes corruption is the main problem , and must be addressed, another problem is the cost of housing in Damascus , its absolutely crazy . I was in Kafr Susi yesterday , the apartments there are going for millions of dollars , and less than 100 yards away are ramshackle buildings , which I suppose will be pulled down to make more expensive housing (who on earth can afford to live in Damascus these days!! )Generally if family own a house in Damascus ( one that they bought years ago)sell it and buy 2 or 3 small appartments on the outskirts and commute to work . Damascus is full of illegal housing , and people have been living in them for 40 years , alot have been given warnings to move , but where are they supposed to go to ? Some would say let them go back to their villages , but they are residents now , so these areas should be raised , the residients who have lived in these houses for a certain number of years given an appartment in new housing that would be built on the site.Another problem is that land was given to housing associations by the government , in order to built good but inexpensive appartments ,now these appartments are being sold making about 600%profit , look at Mashrooh Dumar , this is not supposed to happen , but again corruption and bribes are used.

Things are improving gradually , new roads are being built to improve transport ( the number of cars are another pollution)we have got new buses , gradually replacing the micros .
The problem is everyone wants to be near the centre of Damascus , near to work , university, school , government buildings , and these days thats become a dream , the future for Damascus would be a population that commutes to work etc so the city needs really good transport links , good trains metros etc , that would lead to more work for its population , and the centre would still be a vibrant living place where people can visit and work in .

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May 8th, 2010, 3:24 am

 

13. Husam said:

Pamela:

With so many problems in Syria, where do you start? The priority is clearly an alternative to cars & buses, which leads me to think – Metro! This will be a huge positive impact for the environment, logistics, economy, and of course transportation… but the last time I checked their website, nothing seems to be done since Feb 09… perhaps they are fighting on who is going to get deal 🙂

Having said all that, yes, Syria is on the right track…lets keep it movin’.

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May 8th, 2010, 3:38 am

 

14. Bill from Canada said:

I believe most would agree that pollution (in all its forms) including visual through littering is a serious issue that goes beyond just the image of Damascus.

There are many different solutions that could be considered (I enjoyed reading the ones mentioned by the commentators – great thought processes – they should be definitely be brought up). Some solutions could be done in short order and others over time.

Macro solutions would involve putting laws in place (and enforcing them), looking at alternatives such as better transportation and starting an education campaign targetted at students. These would take a longer time to implement.

An area that could be focused on is increasing people’s ownership and pride of their public areas. Shop owners should be encouraged to clean up beyond their door and paint their doors and store fronts. An increased awareness on the right place to throw garbage (and have the appropriate containers for waste). Taking a neighbourhood and having the residents (along with volonteers from different NGOs / scouts / youth groups) clean it up and maintain it for a period of time. Create competitions between different neighbourhoods on a before / after improvement basis. Having a beautify Damascus day (or week) would put in motion a series of activites and ideas and create momentum.

These would require obviously a commitment which goes beyond a one time effort. Syrian TV and other media should be an integral part of such initiatives.

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May 8th, 2010, 4:48 am

 

15. pamela said:

Husam , yes the Metro seems to have stalled , but there is a huge development going on in the north of Damascus , the old pullman bus station (Joshua will be familiar with this)is going to be replaced with a new bus station , train station and wait for it … a metro station . The area is quite different from a few months ago , with the new roads and gardens lining the motorway, The entrance to Damascus was quite ugly , with the old buildings and awful roads, but its looking much better and has been done quite quickly . I think its quite exciting and a positive step… keep optimistic!!!

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May 8th, 2010, 10:53 am

 

16. Stranger in Syria said:

After almost 5 years living in Syria, my personal analysis of the problem is this:

a) There is a mental and spiritual secession among the people from the society and the government. This secession brings disorder and confusion (the manifestations are everywhere, from civil noise to architectural disorder, corruption and so on). No common interests, no public, only private one to defend against the prevaricator interests of others or from the authority (the public interest) trough corruption, abuse etc.
b) There is not any civic education and culture. The people lives and feel as individual, not as a community. The feeling of living in a community working for a common goal and destiny is insistent. No respect for public common areas in contrast with wonderful and clean houses once you pass the house door.
c) The country is united by the authority of the dictatorship system (summed with cooptation of community leaders and the huge amount of public employees to buy part of the consensus) and the lack of alternatives. If today we will have free and democratic parties in Syria, you will have as much parties as the communities is Syria are (drusi, circassi, different sunni and shia, different kinds of Christians, ismaeli, murshidi, amrenian etc. etc. etc.) with foreign interference like in Lebanon or Iraq.
d) Quite zero trust in the authority; it could be the government or a religious person or figure (with rare exceptions). The authority, which represents the public interest, is perceived as an oppressive power against the private one. It generates the disrespect for the public and the care for the private only.
e) The high level of corruption is in one side the creator of much disorder (creating continuous exceptions to the rules) but even the oil which prevents the machine to block (when the rules are so chaotic and bad conceived that if applied will create more damages than good).

All comments are welcomed.

Thank you and Regards.

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May 8th, 2010, 11:22 am

 

17. why-discuss said:

Pamela

Another solution is decentralization. For example most goverment offices could move out of downtown, like Kafr Souse or other places like Yafur, with direct bus lines to it. I read that Emaar is owning a new project equivalent to Dubai internet city for businesses. In view of its financial situation, I am not sure Emaar is proceeding. Yet there are new development in the 8th Gate in Yafur, but unfortunately the architecture seems to have been given to gulf based architects, so the new building looks more that New Delhi than Syria and they are quite ugly. http://www.8thgate.co.sy/
Damascus is changing.. I still hope for better.

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May 8th, 2010, 12:54 pm

 

18. S. Farah said:

Dear Stranger in Syria:

Your point is very interesting. I disagree with you that Syrians do not share a common interest or goals; it is however the chaos around them that makes it impossible for them to move in one direction. Now, it is like trying to herd cats. This is the result of inadequate laws and lax enforcement. For the most part Syria does not have professional well-trained technocrats.

Imagine you start in a neighborhood with gorgeous residential buildings and clean streets like lets say Halab Street or al Kissour Street. One person decides to alter his balcony. There is no one to stop this violation the neighbors are upset but have no recourse, then someone starts littering, again there is no penalty, soon the person passing by sees a pile of litter and decides to lay his litter next to it. Other people see that the neighbor how violated the law and screened his balcony got away with it and they decide to do the same; soon there is no standard and chaos spread. So the minority of individuals who lack taste, civil responsibility, and consideration for the law and others end up setting the rhythm in the city. This gives the broader impression of wide spread corruption, which encourages others to attempt corrupting other civil servants, hence, the sense that no one is in control. How can you expect any respect for the authority in this scenario?

It is not hopeless. Singapore offers hope look at what they have done in 30 years, Manhattan is a long way from were the city was in the 70s and early 80s. Thailand as well is a much cleaner less polluted city than it was in the 90s.

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May 8th, 2010, 1:56 pm

 

19. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

S. Farah,

The ‘Broken Glass’ syndrome is the consequence and a symptom of STRANGER’s points.
When people feel powerless, they cease to care.

The Syrian citizen walks out of his private home, sees all this chaos, dirt and noise around him, but he feels absolutely unable and powerless to change any of that, and he knows he has zero influence, and that no one listens to what he has to say.

Take the power from them, and you get apathetic and passive society, just like STRANGER describes them.

Their homes and families are the only domains in which their voices are being heard, so the homes and families being kept clean.

Outside of their homes they are being ignored, so as a result, they cease to care. It is a self-protecting mechanism, been created to prevent their hearts from breaking.
.

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May 8th, 2010, 4:44 pm

 

20. S. Farah said:

Amir In Tel Aviv

You are wrong there is no association between authoritarianism and visual noise, to the contrary, just contrast India and Singapore.

Syrians have a lot more freedom than the western media leads you to believe.

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May 8th, 2010, 5:24 pm

 

21. why-discuss said:

Amir in Tel aviv

‘The Syrian citizen walks out of his private home, sees all this chaos, dirt and noise around him, but he feels absolutely unable and powerless to change any of that, and he knows he has zero influence, and that no one listens to what he has to say.”

IT SHOULD BE

‘The Syrian citizen walks out of his private home, sees all this chaos, dirt and noise around him, but he feels absolutely NOTHING. TOTAL INDIFFERENCE… ”

Why? because when you live in place and get used to it, you notice nothing unless someone points it to you.
Ask new-yorkers or people in Miami who live in poor and dirt quarters if they notice anything! Ask people living near airports if they hear the sound of the planes etc…
The key is an awareness campaign and education, and this is only done through a concerted governement effort using media, tv, school etc..
Until they do that, no one will pick a paper from the street to put it in a garbage bin!

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May 8th, 2010, 5:34 pm

 

22. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

S. Farah,

When you wrote “haphazardly placed banners disfiguring the entire façade”, did you mean – Hafez banners, and billboards of Hafez’s son in every room, classroom, school, school yard, yard, souq, every shop in this souq and every alley, gate and wall in that souq .. ?

Don’t underestimate western media. Don’t underestimate the capability to get news from Syria, despite attempts on behalf of the Junta to prevent this from outsiders.

When the Syrian citizen leaves his clean home, and everywhere he goes he sees those banners and billboards with those made-of-steel faces of Hafez & son, he loses hope, and becomes apathetic.

Those “haphazardly placed banners” aren’t at all haphazard. They are being placed intentionally. In order to create passive, fearful and apathetic society.
.

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May 8th, 2010, 6:06 pm

 

23. Jad said:

Dear S Farah,
I’m going to be quick because I notice some of the silly comments, Illl answer your serious questions later.
Please ignore any comment that doesn’t fit the rational of city planning and urban progress it’s all crap, authoritarian regime don’t have any effect on the city’s image in the way some are portraying.
Thanks.

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May 8th, 2010, 6:19 pm

 

24. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Of course it has, Tribal Jad.
What kind of an urban designer are you? Do you plan cities on the moon,
where there are no humans?
City planning and design is first of all, and is all about *political*.

In Tel Aviv, for example, if the streets looked like they look in Dimashk, we would tell Mr. Huldai (TLV’s mayor) and his city council, that either you clean the streets NOW or you lose your mayorship. Guess what would happen ?
.

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May 8th, 2010, 7:00 pm

 

25. Husam said:

Why Discuss said:

“Eighth Gate….so the new building looks more that New Delhi than Syria and they are quite ugly.”

I disagree, what is ugly to you may be beautiful for others.

The 8th gate project by Emaar & IGO joint venture is one of a kind – desperately needed commericial real estate. Imagine a foriegn company needing to set up shop in Damascus, the options are rediculous for commercial space… Al-Hamra, Mashroo’a Damar (Petro Canada), it is pathetic.

I will take New Delhi anytime. The Eight Gate project when completed will be an instant hit. Location wise, timing wise, pollution wise, proximity, and fresh design all of which will set an example in the right direction for future projects.

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May 8th, 2010, 7:40 pm

 

26. Jad said:

Prince the ignorant: stealing other nations’ lands doesn’t count as good urban planning.
Shut it and get lost!

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May 8th, 2010, 7:48 pm

 

27. why-discuss said:

HUSAM

Have you seen the new office buildings along the road?

I agreed that practically it may be a hit but I really hope its esthetics will NOT set an example for future projects presented as a happy mixture of arab and modern architecture.

You may admire the indian inspired architecture found in Dubai and the Gulf but there is no need to build a Taj Mahal in a country that has a rich arab architectural history. This may be adequat for the Gulf countries but not for Syria.

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May 9th, 2010, 1:53 am

 

28. hassan said:

I’m not sure if you all saw this. It looks like the regime has made some irresponsible decisions.

_________
The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 03, 2010
Notice Continuing the National Emergency with Respect to Syria.

NOTICE
– – – – – – –
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT
TO THE ACTIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SYRIA

On May 11, 2004, pursuant to his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C.
1701-1706, and the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Public Law 108-175, the President issued Executive Order 13338, in which he declared a national emergency with respect to the actions of the Government of Syria. To deal with this national emergency, Executive Order 13338 authorized the blocking of property of certain persons and prohibited the exportation or re-exportation of certain goods to Syria. On April 25, 2006, and February 13, 2008, the President issued Executive Order 13399 and Executive Order 13460, respectively, to take additional steps with respect to this national emergency.

The President took these actions to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions of the Government of Syria in supporting
terrorism, maintaining its then existing occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.

While the Syrian government has made some progress in suppressing networks of foreign fighters bound for Iraq, its actions and policies, including continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. As a result, the national emergency declared on May 11, 2004, and the measures adopted on that date, on April 25, 2006, in Executive Order 13399, and on February 13, 2008, in Executive Order 13460, to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond May 11, 2010. Therefore, in
accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared with respect to certain actions of the Government of Syria. The United States will consider changes in the policies and actions of the Government of Syria in determining whether to continue or terminate this national emergency in the future and would welcome progress by the Government of Syria on these matters.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 3, 2010.

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May 9th, 2010, 2:41 am

 

29. norman said:

S Farah,

i agree with everything you said , I just want to add what i always said and agree with WD on this one that it is important to decentralize the Syrian cities into small towns or Borrows that can elect a Mayer and a city council that is responsible to the residents in taking care of the services that people require and willing to pay for , Property taxes would provide revenue for these services , zoning city council approval should be needed for any variation to city rules , doing that will train people to learn how to lead people and provide for their voters ,

One other thing that i noticed is that there is no collection from Building residents for the common areas , i remember that it was very difficult and many people did not contribute to the lady that used to clean the stairs in our apartment building and how the Elevator did not work in my aunts building and nobody wanted to contribute to fix it , it might be better off having a rule to mandate every apartment to pay a monthly fee to maintain common areas and fix the building when that is needed ,

Sometime incentives for keeping a city clean work better than punishment , so i would have a yearly competition between the towns on the best maintained , clean and beautiful town , doing that will give a reason to work together ,

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May 9th, 2010, 2:55 am

 

30. norman said:

AP and Amir will say that this is another proxy war between Syria and Israel by Syria pushing the Lebanese to do the fighting ,

Lebanon fires hummus broadside at Israel
May 08, 2010 at 23:11 View count (34) | | | |

Israel mashes up world’s largest hummus

Lebanon dips into world record with hummus

BEIRUT – Lebanon on Saturday claimed another victory in the continuing battle with Israel over which country can make the largest plate of the chickpea delicacy hummus — with a 10-tonne broadside.

More than 300 chefs set the new record for hummus, which the Lebanese say is their national dish despite Israeli claims, in the presence of a Guinness World Records representative who confirmed its weight at 10,452 kilograms.

Hummus is a dip made of chick peas, sesame paste, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. The chefs mixed the ingredients together in a giant plate which itself claimed a record for the largest earthenware dish.

The latest Lebanese shot across Israel’s culinary bows came amid a gastronomic fight between two countries still technically at war.

In January, 50 chefs in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem mashed up more than four tonnes of hummus, beating a Guinness record set in Lebanon just months previously.

Both hummus and tabbouleh — a salad made with parsley, bulgur wheat, scallions and tomatoes — are being used as ammunition in the cultural cuisine campaign. The Lebanese set the tabbouleh record last year.

Israel exports hummus widely, and is accused of claiming an Arab dish as its own.

Now the Lebanese have also set their sights on falafel, which is popular in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and … Israel. On Sunday they will try to set a world record for that also.

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May 9th, 2010, 3:08 am

 

31. Husam said:

Why Discuss:

Yes, Syrian inspired architecture would be a big plus. I personally like variety. And, at this point just getting “any” project is a big deal, we can’t be too picky. They are moving @ warp-syrian-speed. I think you may be mixing up the building further north (.5 mile) of the project that is still skeleton…this has nothing to do with Emaar.

I don’t know of any more decent project, residential or commercial, that has been completed, even. Perhaps the decade old Bin Landin project… do you know of any others?

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May 9th, 2010, 3:38 am

 

32. Off the Wall said:

Ambition must not be forgotten

In most democratic societies, some Mayors of big cities go on to become presidents and elected prime ministers when they prove their capabilities to run and improve large cities. Take for example Jack Cherac, whose reign as a mayor of Paris witnessed significant improvements that went well with Parisians.

Decentralization of big cities is extremely important. A city as large as Damascus can not be maintained by a single entity, and there will always be a priority for assigning funds to improve an area where an important person lives. On the other hand, decentralization guarantees more equal distribution of funds, as well as ownership of the process where it matters, where people actually live.

Syrian cities will be in a much better position if their mayors are elected and if their management is decentralized. City councils are elected, but not Mayors. This is a starting point.

I am reading of fantastic plans, 8th gates, major changes, ….. But where is public opinion in the whole process. Urban planners recognize that public input is a very important step in any new development or improvement project. And please do not tell me that the few critical articles in one or two newspapers count for public input. Public input takes shape in meetings, in periods during which the public is provided full access to the plans, their impact studies and are given the opportunity to comment on these plans.

My neighbors and I once were able to stop the city council from approving a development plan through which the developers provided a fraudulent argument masked as a typographical error. We argued that we are not against development, but we are against development that will significantly affect the charming and good character of our neighborhood. The city council rebuffed the developer and denied the permit. Off course it asked the developer for a revised plan, which would have been profitable but not as greedy.

To realize the effect of visual noise, one has to travel through southern California by means of surface roads as opposed to highways. As you traverse the area moving from one little decentralized township into another, you begin the recognize the complete absence of ugly billboards in some of of the more planned township (mostly residential bedroom communities). It is as if you were in a hard metal concert and all of the sudden, you are listening to Mozart. The same can be said when you enter Columbia, Maryland, which is a model of a planned city in the Northeast. In both cases, it was the cities who decided, through ballot, to disallow billboards, and to enforce strict criteria of signs. Businesses who do not want to abide by these rules can open somewhere else and lose the chance of having clients in some of the more affluent areas. Other, much less affluent communities are beginning to follow suit despite of the protestation by city managers that they will lose important revenue that comes from bill-boards.

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May 9th, 2010, 7:51 am

 

33. Foreigner in Syria said:

To complete my yesterday’s rapid analysis and answer some questions:

a) The lack of common national spirit is the result of the fake creation of the modern Arab states. What means to be Syrian? What unite all the Syrians? What makes them a nation? The ethnic/religious sense of membership still the stronger in the society. The enemy of Syria and Syrians (like Israel and all the foreign powers who wants to rule of have influence here) will try, when possible, to work on these fractures. Lebanon and Iraq is at the door. That is why for the moment the autocratic and authoritarian system is the best you can have.
b) There is not lack of well trained technocrats but there is not a will to employ and use them, no space for them in Syria. Syrians are everywhere in the world having success in all champs they enter. I know in the entire world plenty of doctors, students in politics, business man, engineers, teachers etc. etc. that could come back. Some of them did and feel regret, many of them after try to come back in Syria they found no space for them and came back to be expatriates (but this is another long history and need an entire article). In politics and governments there is no will to have them back because they do not belong to any clan, in the private sector the company owners (often illiterate with quite zero culture) does not understand yet the importance of paying more salaries to have very experienced people. Regarding technocrats, if there is a political will, you can “rent” them (consultancy), import from outside or send your to study and have experiences abroad. The modern Japan was built with German technocrat’s experiences (people sent to Germany to study) and American business touch. Let’s not talk about the situation of people like me, foreigners with high education and international experience in Syria, that instead of having help and support, find every day any kind of difficulties to do everything.
c) I am confident; I am not at all negative. I believe that Syria can fly like a bird, run like a Ferrari instead of walking like a donkey, like an old Lada, I trust people. I think you have the most intelligent and active people in the Middle East, comparable only to Lebanese but until now Syrians to have success have to expatriate, to emigrate. If the government and the system was more open (I am not talking politically, but economically and socially) was more supportive of the developing energies than a weight and a leech, a bloodsucker, for the society, you can easily reach and pass Lebanon (at least).

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May 9th, 2010, 7:58 am

 

34. jad said:

Dear S Farah,
(I hope that in your capacity as an urban designer you can offer solutions to the problem.)
I’m one in many, please refer to FOREIGNER IN SYRIA comment # 33 about using experts back home and how they don’t fit, I agree with his/her views on this matter, it’s correct

(Why is it that buildings in developed countries keep their original façade and in places like Syria they do not.)
It’s money and law enforcement factors; when you have enough money you can maintain your property in its best shape, but when you lack that your building facade will deteriorate and you won’t be able to fix it with or without an existing law.
In developed countries It’s already written in your lease/mortgage/buying contract what you are allowed and not allowed to do in your apt/office, Syria doesn’t have such rule, the property owner is the king of his ownership and he/she is allowed to do whatever they pleased within it, this type of strong ownership exists since the Arabs took over Damascus from the Byzantines, a quick look at Damascus plan before and after the Arab rules can explain lots of these things we see until today. Damascus used to be on a grid like any Greek and Roman city plan before it gets into pieces as we see it today because the big importance of private property in the Islamic law; where the house owners are free to change and do whatever they want in their properties and in the right-of-way around the property (public area, city properties), as long as they don`t offend their neighbours or get into their private world, this is why you see the narrow organic streets and no windows on the facades in old Damascus, you still see the same issue in the sprawls areas.
(Sorry to take the whole conversation somewhere different but this important idea may explain why and how Damascus looks like this and why we still have some of this property issues in our law until today)

Back to the subject, when it comes to style, materials and colours, people tend to show their “style & money” on their balconies with the help of their architect/interior designer/student/smarta**nodegreedesignerwannabe or even themselves so this is why you got this mishmash of ‘lovely’ style shown wherever you look and the style get worse when you go to head toward neighbourhoods. I personally think that what we need to understand and live with (even if we hate it) is that this typical not so happy style we see in our architecture and urban domain is actually our own creation and because it’s over used for so long it makes it the norm and any style we bring will look odd as you can see in the couple of development project happening in Syria, (regarding the 8th gate, I don`t think it`s an Indian style, it was supposed to be a showcase of different international styles!! from Venice 🙂 to ultra modern 🙂 to Arabic 🙂 depending on what part of the development you are in, but for some financial and managerial issues they changed the initial design and developed to be as we see it today, no identity kind of style.

(It is not corruption.)
Unfortunately, IT IS; To close the deal off on your city law violation and make it stand you bribe the municipality employer and he/she will let you do whatever you like. SO we are back to the 1-2 and 3, corruption again 🙂

(And I do not believe that Syrians do not care.)
Me too, They do care, all of Syrians care about their cities and neighbourhoods, it may not show in an organized matter but it’s there, regardless of the regime, regardless if they are with or opposed to it, they have no choice but to care, because any change in the building/neighbourhood they live in those changes will defiantly affect the value of their investment.

(Many Syrians are very upset by the degradation of their cities. Not Just the expatriates but also the locals and people in government as well.)
Yes I agree, I believe that our love to our cities is influential, it will determine where our cities go. We are not the first or the last to care, we are the sons and daughters of a great nation with rich culture, and it won’t disappear because of couple of ugly buildings and dirty streets.

(I suggest it is lax enforcement. Perhaps the law is not developed and there aren’t sufficient enforcement agencies. What is missing? )
I also agree, we lack in both, we need to continue to develop our urban law and law in general and be more serious about implementing it and fight corruption.

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May 9th, 2010, 6:58 pm

 

35. jad said:

Dear Norman,
BY LAW, every building in Syria should have a council formed from the building’s owners to run it, they supposed to collect small amount of money every month for maintenance matters and the municipality gave this council lots of power to use.
How many buildings you think are doing that properly?
VERY VERY FEW!
The moral of this is that we have law and rules but citizens don’t use them, we as Syrian are lazy when it comes to community work, we need to educate them about their rights in a more transparent way so they can become part of the solution not the problem.

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May 9th, 2010, 7:01 pm

 

36. Husam said:

Jad:

It is easy to sit looking at a computer screen and critisize projects and failure. Syria needs the 8th Gate project desperately as there are NO OTHER COMMERCIAL SPACE IN SYRIA. The priority is NOT on theme-based-vegas style but to get it finished.

The problem with “us guys” is we compare Damascus to the the yardstick of Western developed nations. We have to look at improvements from within, taking into consideration cultural, economic, religious, and political realities.

Smell the Hummus!?

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May 9th, 2010, 9:13 pm

 

37. why-discuss said:

Husam

The commercial development projects I have seen are embryonic. Yet I have seen huge improvements in the road projects around Damascus and the new Bus station in the making.
I heard that Aleppo is going faster in its development projects.
My fear is that because of the rush to have commercial buildings and malls at any cost , little emphasis is made on the esthetics. As Syrians tend to copy each others, I worry there would be a flurry of Dubai ‘Mercato’ like buildings and malls that have nothing to do with Syria. I wish there was some syrian architects with a strong knowledge of the arab and syrian architecture that would be supervise and Okay these projects, before it is too late. If they are built, syrians would have to live with them for decades or centuries: Remember the horrible unfinished building that disfigures Marjah square. No one will dare destroy it as it should! I wish they cover it with glasses, at least it would not stand like a dark concrete monster.!

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May 9th, 2010, 9:38 pm

 

38. Husam said:

Why Discuss:

I hear you loud and clear. My point is this: the “I wish there was some syrian architects with a strong knowledge of the arab and syrian architecture….” from which office do you want this architect to work? How do you attract this talent when basic minimum of drive to work – find parking, get the urge – find a proper toilet, security system, internet-water-electricity-generator functionality over 95%?

These are basics in today’s working environment needed to produce any talent or creative, honest work for Syria. Visiting Damascus is one thing, but setting up shop and working is another matter altogether.

About copying, they copy on small scale business (cafes, etc…) but big projects (carrefour, roads, etc…) I think, will be different as these mega-projects require foreign investment which will bring various talents.

Someone recently said on S.C. that Montreal’s core is too modern/bland; that is a personal opinion. I find Montreal to be one of the most inhabitable ciites in the world, charming, mix of European and Canadian touch. It also has a beautiful Old-town-Montreal which went through re-birth recently. People rave about Montreal because of its diversity and various architectural styles.

Same for Damascus, it doesn’t mean that everything must be “SYRIAN”. However, I agree it will be interesting and very inviting to see Arab or Islamic influence in new buildings (Mosaics, etc…). Perhaps Jad can set up shop there and make a difference 🙂

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May 9th, 2010, 10:10 pm

 

39. jad said:

Husam:
“It is easy to sit looking at a computer screen and critisize projects and failure.”
I’m not following you; am I not allowed to criticize something? Why and for what greater reason? Not to hurt the feeling of the designer?
“NO OTHER COMMERCIAL SPACE IN SYRIA”
Is that enough reason for me not to express my opinion about the architectural style of a building? Dubai is a good example of an architectural and urban planning failure because of the same reason you are defending, it was built and designed by the masters of the world architects yet they all collectively FAILED to get a true identity or proper urban layout for Dubai.
Besides, saying that a project “doesn’t have a clear identity” doesn’t mean that I`m against the project it just means that this project “DOESN’T HAVE ARCHITECTURAL IDENTITY FROM MY POINT OF VIEW” I hope that`s ok with you?
BTW, I was serious about the style of the initial idea of the project.
“we compare Damascus to the the yardstick of Western developed nations.”
Please read every comment I wrote under this post and you will notice that I didn’t not, not even once, compared Damascus to any other western city, it`s a unique city with all the disputed issues we are having here and I always say that it will be unfair to compare Damascus to any other city, eastern or western
“Smell the Hummus!?`”
I usually eat Hummus, I don`t smell it, you need to do that too, EAT hummus, don’t smell it 😉
(it`s all OTW mistake)

“Perhaps Jad can set up shop there and make a difference”
Been there, done that, made small differences in the part I worked on 🙂

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May 10th, 2010, 12:59 am

 

40. norman said:

Jad, Husam , OTW ,

Do you think that part of the problem is that plans for constructions are done by Civil Engineers not architects ,and Civil Engineers are not as concerned as how things look compare to that they work,

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May 10th, 2010, 1:57 am

 

41. Husam said:

Jad:

I am extremely delighted about: “…made a small difference”. That gives me inspiration…JAD thank you for sharing that with us.

I need to reiterate: you can critisize all you want but that leads to negativety from afar. I think you can run out of space/paper if were to outline everything that Syria can do better…but the small steps are important even with some minor flaws. I went to the project, I saw with my own eyes. The project is not perfect in design, etc… but it is a huge step. Just like internet in Syria, it started choppy but then it improved amazingly all the way to wireless 3G chips.

All I am saying is please look at the need and the positive aspects as well. This is the only way expats can have hope.

About smelling the Hummus: I meant it metaphorically not literally. The amount of Hummus you are consuming, you will need some cummin to ease the pain 🙂

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May 10th, 2010, 12:45 pm

 

42. Husam said:

JAD:

I would appreciate your input, feedback, and critic on Nobles Project:

http://www.ace-dam.com/projects/67.htm
http://www.nobles101.com/
http://www.maggroup.ae/english/igo.html

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May 10th, 2010, 12:55 pm

 

43. jad said:

Dear Husam,
It’s getting a bit too much technical for SC. I went through the projects you sent me and I appreciate that you are asking my opinion and I hope that you wont take my comments as criticizing, it’s far from that, it’s just small things that we need to think about when we design and build any mixed-use development small or big for our cities, not only in Syria.
I’m not very critical about the architectural style, I think that architecture is part of the city’s whole image, it’s like going to museum, you will see all kinds of arts from different era and with different professional levels, so it’s up to the person’s taste, some will like some piece others may hate it, so design wise it’s very difficult to measure and judge, therefore I wont go there, I’ll be more technical in my questions/remarks that will lead you to take the decision yourself:

About Nobles:
What does this project add to the housing market in Damascus? Is it going to be ‘rich’ only compound? What is the density this project has FAR? Is it enough or can this parcel have more buildings or taller towers?
From the 3D images of the interiors it seems that the style is more toward crystal chandelier, marble flooring, velvet furniture and fancy candles, I doubt that any middle class Syrian can afford to live in such project, so for me, this is an inclusive club for maybe 100 rich/Nouveau riche families living in a secluded compound that doesn’t have the bases for a ‘city centre’ as it supposed to be.
Is it compact enough to be a city centre in the future? Is it at least connected to the eight’s gate? Or if I live there I’ll need to go in and out through gates by my car to a destination less than 100 meters away?

With all the green areas, the many pools and fountains these images show I wonder where the water is coming from. Is there any thinking of a water treatment for the building greywater to be used for watering? and where the sewage is going, is it treated onsite or just forget about it as we usually do? Where is the energy coming from? Is there any thinking of using renewable energy system to support the shortage, like Solar/wind/geothermal or any kind of technology that might help reducing the use of water and energy and make this project sustainable enough in the future? Are they using these green big gardens for food growing?

Again, I’m with you that we need to build more projects, we only need to think about two things when we do that,
1-Community
Think about the majority of Syrians try to mix them up again the way our neighbourhoods used to be, everybody helping everybody, and they all poor and rich lives in the same street, we need to absolutely and strongly reject the gulf/India ugly cast system

2-Sustainability
Think about the environment, the land, the water, the ecosystem that we are building in, how can we become one with it and help it to help us instead of polluting and destroying our children’s future

I apologize from everybody for being so technical and very ideal in my critics but it seems that most of the Syrian already forgets what we are and how we used to live and why our society become this strong, we all worked together under many horrendous circumstances and we all together as a society helped everybody in needs from any part of the world. That what we are and that we have to continue to be; religions, casts, ethnic background for us doesn’t exist and it should never ever waken up either by ideologies or by building segregated closed and fenced camps.

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May 10th, 2010, 5:20 pm

 

44. Husam said:

Jad:

Thank you for your time, opinion and effort. Your pose serious questions and interesting ideas. You are right this is indeed an exclusive project, it was marketed that way. It is sort of a gated compound community that some people seem to be comfortable with which provides some level of security. Perhaps they did not get permits to go higher.

I don’t think you should apologize, all SC readers will find your input interesting as these things (sustainability, etc) is commonly read in Home sections of any newspapers today. I think the average reader knows a thing or two about solar power, gray water recovery, etc…

Take care,

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May 10th, 2010, 10:15 pm

 

45. trustquest said:

OTW, well said, public opinion when merge with civil society and the NGO then it would be effective but ????.

All points are taken, the subject and the solutions been debated and discussed many times and things will not change dramatically but will keep improving slowly with the change of state ownership to individual’s ownership as public sector disappearing by the day to serve the ambition of some individuals who don’t know the value of public yet. During the period of state ownership, responsibility removed from public and placed on the party and the state, civil society been killed during that period. The new called “market economy” will requires the beautifying of the image and the needs for tourism income, but with the same people and same system it is going to be mismanaged like usual. All solutions mentioned from Metro to other is also used by authority to place hope in public and has been repeated every 10 years as a eureka moments to be died later because it is not serious from the first place and it is beyond their means and budget. The Yalbougha complex in the center of Damascus is a great answer to the writer of this thread to remind her that the picture for new education center will not see better future. The answer which everyone knows, the decentralization of the state as all know how necessary but it is out of the question for the dictatorship, it is against its grain.

Everything mentioned by Stranger in Syria is right on the money, that is why Syria have 19 millions people outside the country and I wonder if you are really stranger as you said but sir you knows more than allowed to.

Lack of laws, yes, can the system of dictatorship with his centralized decrees and with no public participation change that, no way. New laws is not going to be the solution, a new of law with the presence of civil society and its participation with public participation and a independent judicial system are what is needed, that would requires moving away from military mind to civil mind which I see very far in the coming decade, hey it might require free elections to build that sense of responsibility and here is the obstacle,.

New Law need to be introduced continuously to improve and stop public abuse, needs also to be reached to public not as currently this divide, hey when I talk to my sister I tell her about laws she never heard of them, thanks for Al Gore. The ownership law itself keeps changing, the current ownership for condo or apartment needs to be revised to own the air not walls, columns and ceilings. In my last visit, I witnessed all common area in the high-rise building in Damascus; been assaulted by occupiers and turned it to shops and market place, common area disappeared in front of the eyes of the government.

In the last 50 years, violations were the norm, municipalities could not prevent people from adding another floor, close balcony, add dish, change color and so on. There were no enforcement, most building never finished its façade, it was not even on the plan and people move in arbitrary without Certificate of Occupancy. State during the past period has no idea what is its role? Heard talk about needed talent, talent is fought against in Syria, thank you SIS.

Ownership laws have deteriorated during dictatorship period and it keep going downhill, last visit I saw how most buildings added elevator without any respect to common ownership. The guy in the 4th floor in our building close the stairs between third and forth floor and owned the sky above, his aim to have rent a sign on the top of the building so he can generate income for himself, he is a lawyer too. Actually, I believe that those steel doors in every building under the name of privacy are not protection of privacy it is a preparation for coming civil war, and I hope the state will realize that and stop this from spreading.

The main theme of the existence of leadership which leads by example is what keeps corruption in place. Corruptions can not be solved it is the principal which current echelons collected more than they should and which its appetite did not stop for very sick sectarian motivation. Nothing in the history of the world, individual or collective individual’s amount wealth beyond the country wealth, this is a dramatic event I do not see outing from it. It deprived the triangle of country wealth from it torso and the head is struggling to keep on top.

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May 11th, 2010, 3:52 am

 

46. trustquest said:

I thought to give example of decentralizing without election and without public participation like what happened in Reqqah, North Syria.

The governor of that city uses public monies to build castles and mansions while the hunger and disposition of million people are going on.
http://www.syriangavroche.com/search/label/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D9%82%D8%A9

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May 11th, 2010, 4:13 am

 

47. 5 dancing shlomos said:

for pure unadulterated ugliness and soullessness of “architecture”, attitudes, culture, people, go to any israeli area.

probably could add any development by hariri. son or deceased father.

chicago is dirty. la is dirty.

is visual noise a negative way to say Life?

i will not critize damascus. this is for its citizens. interferences by ouside powers have profoundly affected damascus and all of syria from break up to wasted monies to types of leaders.

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May 12th, 2010, 4:24 pm

 

48. s. Farah said:

تحت عنوان(النظافة مسؤولية.. النظافة عنوان.. )…وزارة الإدارة المحلية تطلق حملة توعية للنظافة
الاخبار المحلية

الإدارة المحلية: الحملة ليست مقيدة بمدة محددة وهي مستمرة بشكل دائم
مواطنون: هذه الحملة شيء بديهي ويجب أن تطبّق منذ زمن
أطلقت وزارة الإدارة المحلية يوم السبت وعلى مستوى جميع المحافظات السورية، حملة التوعية في مجال النظافة وتحت عنوان (النظافة مسؤولية.. النظافة عنوان.. معاً لا حدود لطموحاتنا) في حديقة تشرين .

الافتتاح امس بحديقة تشرين
وقال مدير الشؤون الفنية في وزارة الإدارة المحلية، إياد الشمعة لسيريانيوز إنه” تم الإعلان عن حملة التوعية للنظافة في حديقة تشرين، والتي تستهدف جميع المواطنين مع الوحدات الإدارية لتوعيتهم بأهمية النظافة وتحفيزهم على الالتزام بها”.
وحول برنامج الحملة قال الشمعة إن ” الحملة ستشمل النواحي الإعلامية كحملات التلفاز والإعلانات الطرقية، إضافةً إلى حملات التوعية عن طريق المنظمات (كالشبيبة والطلائع واتحاد الطلبة)، عدا عن التعاون مع وزارات التربية والتعليم العالي والأوقاف للتوعية عن طريق المدارس والجامعات والجوامع “.

توعية لمدة شهرين
وحول مدة الحملة قال الشمعة ” تستمر الحملة في مرحلتها الأولى مدة شهرين لتشمل التوعية بمخالفات النظافة و ماهي السلوكيات الصحيحة، لنرى تجاوب المواطنين والوحدات الإدارية، ومعرفة العقبات والصعوبات التي من الممكن أن تواجهنا، وبعدها تنطلق المرحلة الثانية “.
وفيما يخص المرحلة الثانية من حملة ( النظافة مسؤولية.. النظافة عنوان.. معاً لا حدود لطموحاتنا)، قال الشمعة ” سنقوم في المرحلة الثانية بتطبيق بنود قانون العقوبات بخصوص مخالفات النظافة، وهذا لا يعني أنها غير سارية بفترة الشهرين، إلا أن هذه الفترة مخصصة لمعرفة جوانب التقصير” مشيراً إلى أن ” حملة النظافة ليست مقيدة بمدة محددة وهي حملة مستمرة بشكل دائم”.

الغرامة هي الرادع

القمامة بالشارع بسبب قلة الحاويات
سيريانيوز استطلعت آراء المواطنين حول هذه الحملة، وقالت نبيلة موظفة (27 عاماً) إن ” الحملة حضارية لأبعد الحدود، ويجب أن تفرض غرامات مالية كبيرة على المخالفين لردع الناس، إضافةً إلى تأمين عدد كبير من الحاويات مع البدء بالحملة حتى لا تكون حجة المخالفين بعدد الحاويات القليل”
وأضافت نبيلة ” على الرغم من أن هذه الحملة شيء بديهي ويجب أن يطبق منذ زمن، إلا أنه أن تأتي متأخراً خير من أن لا تأتي أبداً”.

من جهتها قالت سارة موظفة (23 عاماً) إنه ” يجب التشديد على المخالفين خلال الحملة، كتطبيق مرسوم منع التدخين، حتى تصبح النظافة جزءاً من ثقافتنا، ويجب تخصيص لجان للكشف عن التجاوزات، مع إعطاء الصلاحيات لشرطة المرور بمخالفة المستهترين بالنظافة”.
وأضافت سارة” يجب أن تشمل التوعية عمال النظافة والبلديات، لأن معداتهم توسخ أكثر من التنظيف، إضافةً إلى أن البلديات تشبه المزابل من الداخل، ولا يوجد أي اهتمام بنظافتها”.

القمامة بالمدينة الجامعية
بدوره قال زياد طالب في كلية الحقوق، ومن سكان المدينة الجامعية إنه ” يجب على جميع الكليات أن تقوم بحملات توعية للجامعيين بخصوص النظافة، فعلى الرغم من كونهم مثقفين إلا أن الأوساخ تملأ ارض الجامعة، عدا عن عدم تنظيف مدخل المكتبة المركزي منذ فترة طويلة”.
وأضاف” التوعية والغرامات يجب أن تطال المسؤولين قبل المواطنين، فغض البصر عن هذه التجاوزات في المدينة الجامعية والكليات، لا يدل على وجود أي اهتمام من القائمين عليها”.
وتهدف الحملة إلى تعريف المواطن بواجباته فيما يتعلق بالحفاظ على نظافة البيئة وحمايتها وتطبيق قانون النظافة 49, وتسليط الضوء على الدور الذي تلعبه الجمعيات الأهلية لرفع مستوى النظافة لدى جميع فئات المجتمع. ‏

وأطلقت وزارة الإدارة المحلية في وقت سابق من الشهر الجاري حملتها التوعوية في مجال النظافة وتطبيق القانون 49 تحت عنوان (النظافة مسؤولية وعنوان), وذلك بالتعاون مع وزارات البيئة والتربية والإعلام والأوقاف والجمعيات الأهلية والمنظمات الشعبية.
وصدر قانون النظافة رقم 49 عام 2004 والذي نص على العناية بالنظافة والمحافظة على المظهر الجمالي للأبنية والمحال التجارية والحدائق العامة, ويسري القانون على الأشخاص الطبيعيين والاعتباريين على السواء.. وأن المواطن وثقافته وحسه الوطني والإنساني هو المعيار لسلامة تطبيق هذا القانون.
وتبنت سورية إستراتيجية وطنية بيئية في السنوات الأخيرة تهدف إلى تطبيق إدارة متكاملة للموارد المائية والأراضي, وتخفيض أثر التلوث على الصحة العامة إلى مستويات مقبولة, وتطوير تخطيط المدن وتنظيم المناطق العشوائية (السكنية والصناعية), وترسيخ البعد البيئي في سياسات الوزارات القطاعية وتطوير التشريعات اللازمة, وحماية التنوع الحيوي والموارد الطبيعية والتراثية من المخاطر المتنوعة, واستخدام الطاقات النظيفة والمتجددة.
حازم عوض- سيريانيوز

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May 17th, 2010, 2:38 am

 

49. s. farah said:

لا تجعلوا من النظافة حملة مؤقتة وموسمية
الحملة تنفض الغبار عن قانون طواه النسيان.. والكرة في ملعب البلديات!!
18/05/2010

بقلم: مروان دراج – سيرياستيبس
حملة النظافة الشاملة التي انطلقت منذ أيام في جميع المحافظات وتشارك فيها بعض الوزارات والجمعيات الأهلية والمنظمات الشعبية وعدد من شركات قطاع الأعمال..، هذه الحملة أعادت إلى الأذهان قانون النظافة رقم (49) الذي يعود إلى عام 2004، فحين صدر هذا الأخير تمَّ الاحتفاء به في المنابر الإعلامية، وتبارى بعض المسؤولين في الحديث حول أهميته وضرورته، كما وبادرت بعض البلديات ومجالس المدن والبلديات في تنظيم البرامج والأنشطة التي تحث المواطنين على ترسيخ وتعميق ثقافة النظافة، من خلال التخلص من النفايات وكل ما له علاقة في الإضرار بالبيئة وبصحة وسلامة البشر..، هكذا كان واقع الحال قبل نحو ست سنوات، وما يجري حالياً من نفض للغبار عن قانون النظافة يكاد يتشابه وإلى حدود التطابق مع فعاليات وأنشطة سابقة، ما يشجع ذلك على القول: أنّه يخشى أيضاً هذه المرة، أن يتم صوغ برامج وأنشطة للنظافة تستمر لبعض الوقت، كي يذهب قانون النظافة من جديد إلى الأدراج ويصبح من المنسيات، وبالتالي يتحول الأمر، كما لو أن النظافة مرهونة بقرار أو بمناسبة بعينها أو بدعوات تطلقها وزارة الإدارة المحلية مع قدوم فصل الصيف، في حين تشير بعض المتابعات والتقرير في المنابر الإعلامية.
إن ثمة الكثير من التقصير في الحفاظ على نظافة بعض الأحياء، ما يستوجب الأمر حضور أنشطة النظافة على مدار العام، ذلك أنّ لسان حال المواطن العادي يقول: أنّ مجالس المدن والبلديات تتقاضى سنوياً الرسوم والضرائب من المحال التجارية، ومن أصحاب العقارات السكنية والتي تأتي جميعها تحت بند (نظافة)، وبالتالي فالمسؤولية الأساسية في هذا الجانب تقع على عاتق المرجعيات الرسمية والعاملين فيها، وما نعنيه في ذلك، أنّ المواطن العادي يتحمل مسؤولية في الالتزام بقواعد وشروط رمي القمامة في المكبات المخصصة وضمن مواعيد بعينها، وكذلك على هذا المواطن أن يبدي الحرص الشديد في عدم رمي المخلفات المنزلية بطريقة عشوائية، وأيضاً الاهتمام بنظافة المحيط الذي يعيش فيه، ولكن تبقى المهام الأساسية من مسؤولية البلديات، وإذا كان هناك ثمة تقصير في نظافة هذا الحي أو ذاك فذلك لا يعني ولا بأي حال من الأحوال، تحميل المواطن كامل المسؤولية، والإشارة إليه كما لو أنّه عنوان التقصير من الألف إلى الياء، وما يدفع على قول هذا الكلام وبلغة مباشرة بعيدة عن (الغمر واللمز)، أنّه وعلى مدار ست سنوات من ولادة قانون النظافة، لم تبادر البلديات ومجالس البلدان في إحداث أية تبدلات على آليات عملها، ولم يظهر على أرض الواقع ما يشير إلى تحسن نسبي في نظافة بعض المدن والقرى والأحياء الشعبية الصغيرة والكبيرة، حتى أن مثل هذا الأمر كان قد لفت انتباه السياح العرب والأجانب، وذلك من خلال الإشارات التي كانت تصدر عنهم، والتي كانت تعني بلهجة خجولة، بأنّ ثمة تقصير يشوب واقع حال نظافة بعض الأحياء، وعلى وجه التحديد المناطق القريبة من المدن الكبرى مثل دمشق وحلب.
في هذا الكلام الذي لا يخلو من النقد البناء، لا نقلل من شأن وأهمية حملة النظافة التي تلمس المواطن العادي ملامحها في كثير من الأنشطة، وإذا كانت هناك أولويات يتعين التذكير بها لمعالجة واقع حال النظافة من جوانب متعددة، فإنّه يتعيَّن التذكير، بأنّ القمامة بمعناها الواسع لا تتوقف فقط على ما يصدر من مخلفات منزلية ممثلة بفضلات الطعام وأوساخ مع نهاية كل يوم، وإنما أيضاً ثمة الكثير من القصور في معالجة النفايات الصادرة عن المشافي والمطاعم وكافة المنشآت التي يستدعي نشاطها وحضورها التعاطي مع مواد عضوية وكيماوية وسواها من المخلفات الأخرى التي تتوافق مع نشاط كل منشأة، ولا يفوتنا في هذا السياق التذكير، بأنّ التوزع العشوائي وغير المنظم للمنشآت الصناعية الصغيرة والورش الحرفية، يتسبب بدوره في الإضرار بالبيئة، والمسؤولية في هذا الجانب تقع على بعض المرجعيات الرسمية وعلى رأسها وزارة الإدارة المحلية، وذلك بهدف السعي إلى تنظيم حضور هذه المنشآت والعمل على حصر وجودها ضمن المدن الصناعية التي من شأنها منع تلوث الماء والهواء، والأخطر من ذلك أنّ هذا التوزع العشوائي كان قد ساعد وعلى مدار عقود طويلة من الزمن في التعدي على مساحات خضراء قريبة من بعض أحياء محافظتي دمشق وريفها، حيث تمَّ تشييد هذه المنشآت بطرق وآليات تفتقد إلى كثير من الضوابط والشروط الفنية والتقنية الحديثة، فالأمر الذي لا يضيف أي جديد وسبق أن أتينا على ذكره في أكثر من مناسبة، أنّ المنشآت الصناعية الصغيرة والمتوسطة المنتشرة على مساحات شاسعة في أكثر من محافظة، ما زالت تدار بطرق بدائية ومتخلفة وغير قادرة على معالجة النفايات الصلبة أو السائلة الصادرة عنها، والتي غالباً ما يتم التخلص منها بواسطة الأنهار والبحيرات والتجمعات المائية أو من خلال مكبات القمامة، ولذلك، فالأمر الذي يفترض التنبيه له، يتمثل أولاً: في تعميم تجربة المدن الصناعية على كافة المحافظات وليس ضمن المحافظات الكبرى فقط مثل دمشق وحلب وحمص، وفي حال تعذر ذلك ولم يكن هذا الاقتراح في مكانه أو ليس سديداً، فإنَّ الخيار المفترض بهذه الحالة، هو إلزام أصحاب هذه المنشآت في الانتقال إلى هذه المدن حتى لو كانت بعيدة أو لا تتفق بشروطها مع رغباتهم، ذلك أن هؤلاء الصناعيين وعلى الرغم من تسطير الضبوط الرسمية بحق منشآتهم على مدار سنوات، لم يتمكنوا من تحقيق الشروط السليمة في معالجة العوادم الناجمة عن عمليات الإنتاج للسلع الصادرة عن المنشآت.
وإذا كانت النظافة بمعناها الشامل وفق ما جاء في الحملة الحالية، تعني معالجة كل ما يسيء لنظافة الأحياء والمناطق السكنية، فإنّه ومن ضمن الأولويات أيضاً ليس فقط معالجة واقع حال المنشآت الصناعية، وإنما التشدُّد أيضاً من أجل الحفاظ على الهواء النظيف وهذا الأمر بالتأكيد ليس من مهام البلديات ولا وزارة الإدارة المحلية، وإنما من مهام وزارة النقل المطالبة أكثر من أي وقت مضى في منع عمل السيارات العاملة على المازوت، وحصر استيراد السيارات العاملة على البنزين والكهرباء والمازوت الأخضر. ذلك أنّ الأرقام الرسمية الصادرة عن منظمات صحية محلية ودولية، تشير على أن الذين يقضون يومياً بسبب تلوث الهواء بثاني أوكسيد الكربون يتضاعف عددهم عاماً تلو الآخر،.. طبعاً لا يمكن في هذه المقالة السريعة الحديث بشيء من الإسهاب حول كل ما له علاقة بالمصادر التي تسيء إلى البيئة وتمنع حضور النظافة، لأنّ هناك أيضاً الكثير من المبررات التي تجعلنا نأتي على ذكر المضار الناجمة عن معاصر الزيتون في القرى القريبة من المساحات المزروعة بهذا المنتج، وكذلك يجب عدم القفز عن الأوساخ التي ما زالت تصدر عن منشآت الدباغة، القريبة من مدينة دمشق، وسواها من المصادر التي يطول الحديث عنها، وما يجعلنا في هذا السياق نذكِّر، بأنه يتعيَّن ومع هجوم فصل الصيف ليس فقط إنعاش الحديث حول قانون النظافة فقط، وإنّما لابدَّ أيضاً من التذكير بقانون البيئة، فهذين القانونين يتضمنان الكثير من المضامين التي يفترض أنها تلزم الذين يتجاوزون حدود النظافة ويتعدون على سلامة البيئة، التقيد بتشريعات هي في نهاية المطاف من أجل ضمان سلامة الجميع،.. والأهم من كل ذلك أن النظافة من الإيمان.

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May 18th, 2010, 4:59 am

 

50. joseph giovannini said:

As an architect and critic who has spent only a couple of weeks traveling in Syria, I hesitate to wade into an arena where angels fear to tread. But speaking narrowly as a professional, I know that editing a design, whether interior or exterior, makes a huge difference in the aesthetic impact of a building. By extension, you can edit a city with the same impact. If you take out the visual noise, as Mr. Farah suggests, you take the buildings back to their basic form, and in most of Damascus, the architectural vernacular of the city is simple and cubic. The clean-up strategy therefore has every potential for achieving a cumulative effect based on solid geometries that add up to a complex urban whole. Then the sun does its job sculpting the cubic forms in shadow and light. Doesn’t seem too hard to achieve a major improvement. Doesn’t require regime change. Doesn’t require asking Israel. Cleaning up the city can develop as a symbol of local and national pride, and as a means of bringing citizens together in a shared and collective effort.

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July 1st, 2010, 9:54 am

 

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