Lattakia Coastal Lands in Limbo Decades after Government Expropriation

The Lattakia Provincial Council sent a recommendation in July to the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment to cancel expropriations along most of the coastal strip, given that none of the planned projects have been implemented since the properties were seized 45 years ago. However, it is unlikely that the ministry will heed the recommendation or reverse the expropriations.

Most of Lattakia’s coastal strip saw massive land expropriations in 1975 to the benefit of the Ministry of Tourism, in accordance with Decrees 2196 and 2198. The decrees were meant to carry out tourism-related construction projects. The expropriated land extended from just south of Lattakia city to the town of Ras Al-Baseet, 35 kilometres north in a semi-continuous strip of coast with a width of some 1.5 to 3 kilometres and a combined area of 6,000 hectares — equivalent to 95 percent of Lattakia province’s coastline.

The Ministry of Tourism offered a number of expropriated sites within the coastal strip up for investment during tourism investment forums held between 2005 and 2011. The ministry also contracted a specialised office in 2009 to carry out a planning study in the Ras Al-Baseet area to invest in the area’s tourism potential. But no projects have been implemented on those properties, despite some being considered important tourism beaches, such as Al-Bassa, Al-Snoubar, Ras Al-Baseet, Wadi Qandeel, Burj Islam and Umm Al-Tuyyour.

The Higher Tourism Council also reversed expropriations of properties in two cases, in accordance with Decrees No. 777 of 1988 and 77 of 2003, as they were believed to have been acquired through favouritism and the personal connections of some property owners.

But popular and legal objections raised over the issue in recent decades have failed to change the situation for expropriated properties, or raise compensation payments and reduce the width of the expropriated lands extending westward from the coastline.

Expropriation procedures for the areas began in 1983, in accordance with Expropriations Law No. 20 of that year, some eight years after the decrees were originally released to acquire properties in the area. Compensation prices for the properties were subsequently laid out in successive decrees released in 1985, 1991 and 2000, varying widely from SYP 70,000 to 2.2 million per hectare of expropriated land. Some property owners refused to accept the compensation, while others are still waiting to receive theirs.

Government expropriation did not prevent the construction of informal housing in those areas, where in some cases entire makeshift ashwa’iyat districts were built. Most of the informal housing centers concentrated within the first 150 meters of land stretch from the beachfront, where public maritime property law technically prevents construction.