INFRA+ Infrastructure for Fragmented Cities: Middle East

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How can infrastructure improve life in fragmented cities, now and in the future?

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  • Dr Christine Mady, Notre Dame University (bio)
  • Prof Heba Khalil, Cairo University (bio)
  • Dr Rita Nasr, Henley Business School (bio)

Chair: Mr Yahya Gamal, University of Manchester (bio)


Dr Christine Mady

Instability, informal mobility, and differentiated spatial experiences in Beirut

This presentation provides an overview of the establishment of Beirut’s public transportation system, and its transformation following the 1975-1989 Lebanese civil war. This transformation is characterised by the depletion of the publicly provided bus fleet, and the invasion of privately provided buses and vans, which support the mobility of one part of the population in Beirut and its surroundings. Within an unstable context, this transformation resulted in an informal bus system, which is deeply entrenched in the country’s inheritance of a consociational government, weak planning, and strong belonging to politico-sectarian communities. Some consequences include differentiated spatial experiences for this system’s riders as compared to private automobile users, in terms of navigating the city and traversing war-inherited boundaries. Debates on how to support and improve public transport in Beirut are ongoing, despite numerous post-war proposals between 1994 and 2019.

Prof Heba Khalil

Enhancing circularity for better livability in formal/informal areas: Urban metabolism as an approach

Dr Rita Nasr

The institutional role of middlemen in the development of better recycling practices

This talk draws on Lebanon’s major dilemma in solid waste sector, which suffers from lack of adequate infrastructure, absence of well-defined national and local policies, and lack of cost recovery systems for solid waste management. While 8-10% of municipal solid waste is being recycled, no attempts and strategies are set by the government to improve this sector, leading to more pressure for disposal mechanisms in terms of dumping in the sea and burning waste. This is reflected in the presence of approximately 617 unofficial municipal dumpsites and three national sea landfills for Beirut and Mount Lebanon (the most urbanized areas in the country). These mechanisms were heavily opposed by activists and environmentalists who associate such practices with great harm on the environment. However, the solid waste sector in the country seems to hide alternative treatment practices exercised by self-organized recycling businesses. These operators are known as recycling middlemen and owner-operators of collection/sorting points in urban centers and around dumpsites. The research questions the institutional role of recycling middlemen, as soft urban interventions, in the unstable waste system and their formal-informal interfaces in the face of various contexts of uncertainties.

INFRA+ Rationale

How can infrastructure be chosen, planned, designed, implemented, maintained, enhanced and used to improve human well-being in formal and informal urban areas?

The sustained functioning of infrastructural systems has multiple positive effects on human health and wellbeing. Infrastructure is therefore central to the UN Sustainable Development agenda, featuring in and contributing to most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; Goals 1, 3, 5-14 among others). The lack of access to sanitation, water, transport, energy or communication infrastructure can curtail sustainable development and entrench existing or create new social inequality dynamics, for instance in further stigmatising the urban poor.

The INFRA+ webinar series aims to identify links between context-specific infrastructural challenges, approaches to their solution and universal mechanisms towards improved sustainability.

Speakers from across academia and practice with focus on East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East present their unique disciplinary perspectives and propose transdisciplinary directions for future research.

Check out all INFRA+ webinars here.

Image by djedj from Pixabay.

This webinar series is funded through the University of Manchester Global Challenges Research Fund.

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Organiser University of Manchester - SusInfra

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