Thousands of residents will benefit from a UK-funded project designed to assist municipalities in meeting community needs, part of UNDP and the Ministry of Social Affairs’ project: The Lebanon Host Communities Support Project, a press release said on Friday.

In his first official visit to Sidon, where he met with Mayor Mohammed el-Saudi and members of the municipal council, Ambassador Hugo Shorter inaugurated a solar-powered street lighting system funded by UK Aid. He was accompanied by UNDP Country Director Luca Renda, and the National Coordinator of the Lebanon Host Communities Support Project at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Suheir El Ghali.

The 115 solar-powered lamp posts are aimed at reviving the Old Sidon waterfront and once again turning the sea front into a popular pathway that brings together thousands of residents, visitors and local vendors.

Speaking from Sidon Ambassador Shorter said: “After coming to the Sidon Festival last week-end, I am pleased to make my first official visit to Sidon, one of the oldest cities of the world, and to have the opportunity to meet some of its people to learn more about the city’s future as well as its history – and also to visit the castle.

“We are here today because we believe in good investment and we are proud that UK Aid has been a major donor to the Lebanon Host Communities Support project since it began in 2013. What we have is a project that was identified as one of the main priorities by the community in Sidon through the Maps of Risks and Resources, where the local community comes together to determine their priorities. This lighting project that ensures public lighting for up to 12 hours/day shows real team work with all stakeholders, the Lebanese government and local communities to target the most urgent community needs. I have seen pictures of how the corniche looked before this project and I am pleased to see tonight the ‘After’ and the positive impact it will have for road and personal safety. It is heart-warming to see families, youth, children, visitors and vendors able to wonder up and down in the evening in a much safer environment, and enjoy the evening sea-breeze. Even the fishermen’s port as I have seen has benefited, allowing the safe departure and return of fishing boats to and from sea.

“This is one of 90 projects the UK is funding across 49 municipalities throughout the country. We realize that the need is great and we shall continue to support similar initiatives in collaboration with our local and international partners.”

Ahmad El Baba, a 50 year old resident of the Old Sidon waterfront said: “The waterfront area was drowning in darkness, but now it is filled with life. We thank you for your efforts that will improve security conditions in Sidon.”

Renda said: “Modern technology and traditional design were combined for the installation of the new solar-powered streetlamps which will illuminate the corniche in Old Sidon, contributing to the security of the local community and the beautification of the area. We are delighted to see one more result of our longstanding collaboration with the Municipality of Sidon. We are especially grateful to the UK for funding this project and for its strong commitment to support Lebanese communities in partnership with UNDP and the Ministry of Social Affairs.”

Ghali said: “This project is funded by the UK and was identified by the residents of Sidon as one of their top priorities through the “Maps of Risks and Resources” methodology adopted in the selection and implementation of projects within the Lebanon Host Communities Support Project. It is not unusual that the residents of Sidon chose this project in particular. The city which has major potential for tourism was deprived from its beautiful jewels and security fears took over the streets. The waterfront lighting project is one of the projects that restores hope for the people of Sidon in their city.”

“The solar lights project brought life back to Sidon and lit the longest and most beautiful street in the city,” said Mohammed Saudi, Mayor of Sidon.

“On behalf of the municipality and the residents of Sidon, I would like to thank the government of the UK, the UNDP and MoSA,” he added.

Ambassador Shorter also called on MP Bahiya Hariri in Majdelyoun and met with a group of Palestinian youth to hear more about projects they have designed and implemented to benefit the local community.