City mapping for refugees locked in a concrete jungle

green-balloon-lebanon-2Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been living in a concrete jungle for decades. Unlike the tents and temporary conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have put down roots. More than 400,000 refugees live in a labyrinth of concrete structures, built one on top of the other.

It’s a mess, but volunteers now plan on making some “green” sense out of the madness.

Claudia Martinez Mansell has launched Citizen science in a refugee camp on Kickstarter to collect funds to help her create maps of the Bourj Al Shamali refugee camp.

We’ve participated in balloon mapping projects in the West Bank. The notion goes like this: how can we save or better a situation or environment if we don’t know what’s there? A low-cost to build accurate maps is by sending weather balloons up above the city, with an always on camera taking photos from multiple directions. These images can later be sewn together to create a comprehensive map.

We take maps of our towns and cities for granted, and applications like Google Maps has made us more aware and curious about locations far away.

But such maps don’t provide the resolution needed to give answers like: where should we build an urban garden? A playground for children? Recycling centers? How is power and water distributed through the city, if at all?



Mansell, who’s been connected to the refugees for 2 decades reasons that when the citizens can make where they live, they can analyse, improve, green, and take charge of their environment.


The Kickstarter campaign is looking to raise $12,500 for:

1. The completion and production of the map of the camp, building on several months of self-funded balloon-mapping that have already been carried out.

2. Funding the remaining transportation costs associated with bringing a few mappers to speak about this project at events in the United States.




We like the idea, especially because we already see urban farms dotting the horizons of the refugee camps. Support the campaign here on Kickstarter. We did.

Read here about the bigger initiative.

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