Written by Iman Salameh
Translated by Rabab Housseiny
NNA - "Green Lebanon" are words that had been for long chanted by Feyruz, and that we have been hearing since our tender age, extolling our land's abounding natural resources. But the human conflicts and wars right onto Lebanon soil, green zones are vanishing while construction is growing.
Where are now Lebanon’s natural resources? And what have we, as Lebanese, done to preserve this wealth? Could the state institutions and the civil society alone work on curbing deforestation in our country?
Lebanon is distinguished, in the Arab world, by a natural wealth of forests, timberlands and water, estimated at 35% from the overall surface in 1965. This percentage dropped till 13% in 2009, according to the statements of the Ministry of Environment, which prompted officials to mobilize and sound the alarm, to protect the green zones.
Ecologists succeeded in 2009 in driving the authorities to bring the national strategy to manage forests fire into effect, through the current government’s pledge in its state policy to extend the green zones, through forestation and activating the environmental administration of basins and natural reserves.
This EU-funded strategy, implemented jointly by the Ministry of Environment and the Forest Wealth Association, mainly provides a comprehensive and clear-cut vision for the needs on the level of the institutions and administrations. This strategy contains five key axes; they are: research and information, reducing risk, readiness, response, and rehabilitation. It aims to prove early support and a better management of forests’ fire.
In counterpart, what are the threats that we ought to ward off in order to implement this strategy? Lebanon’s forests used to cover over 13% of the country’s area until 2006. Yet all givens today agree that this percentage has considerably dwindled. Therefore, we must work on fighting fire, organizing urban expansion, and reducing the presence of quarries and excavators.
When the concerned ministries took charge of managing forests development in Lebanon, in collaboration with the civil society, each side sought, within the frame of its mission, to implement forestation projects nationwide.
The Forest Wealth and Development Association, and according to its Director General Sawsan Bou Fakhr, owns a nursery that annually produces around one a half million pine trees and plants every year 100 thousand trees in Lebanon. The Association is organizing this year a wide forestation campaign in the different Lebanese regions to plant 450 thousand trees, in collaboration with the regions’ municipalities. This work is taking place within the frame of a plan devised by the Association in 2009 and adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture to increase the green cover from 13% to 20%, to be launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, which clarified that is was assuming its role through banning trees cutoff under the penalty of law. However, the lack of coordination among concerned administrations and the shortage of tools and human resources to contain fires negatively affected the Ministry’s assuring its role.
The protection of forests and the activation of interest in managing natural resources within the properties of spiritual institutions have become a stringent necessity, requiring an all-inclusive plan, especially that figures point out that 40% of forests are owned by local spiritual institutions.
The Lebanese in general and locals of the rural communities in particular have made use of this wealth through the production of pines, wooden products, therapeutically herbs and charcoal.
However, the forests' sector is making the least contribution to the local income.
Accordingly, each citizen must abide by their obligation to preserve green Lebanon and to start implementing the forests law in order to rectify the current flaws and increase green zones.
Green Lebanon is agonizing, indeed.
Shall we all dash to save it?
Written by Iman Salameh