الخميس، 25 فبراير 2010
LEBANON AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN YEAR 2009
LEBANON & THE ENVIRONMENT IN YEAR 2009
Mr. Mazen H. Abboud
Drafted in English by
Dr. Aseel Takshe
University of Twente
The following report briefly addresses the environmental conditions in Lebanon during 2009, and the corresponding response by decision makers.
LEBANON & THE ENVIRONMENT IN YEAR 2009
Table of Contents
Copenhagen Conference 3
Climate Change Impact on Lebanon 3
Climate Change and Vegetative Cover 3
In the Huge Incidents in the Country and Their Environmental Impacts 3
In the Elections and their Environmental Impact 3
Elections Law 3
Increase of the Environmental Violations 3
Increase of the Forests Cutting Permits 3
Maritime Violations 3
Governmental Policies 3
In the Government and the Designation of the Minister 3
In the Environmental Part of the Ministerial Statement 3
5- Launching a practical plan with incentives to replace the taxis car with others fuel saving. 3
6- Establish a mechanism to encourage the use of Clean Technologies and renewable energies (CDM). 3
The environmental part in the current ministerial statement is more applicable, in form, than the previous one. However, it omitted a big number of pending environmental issues and environmental concerns which were stipulated by the previous statement. In addition to this, some of its parts were described as being closer to a project stone or a business plan especially the part related to planting two million trees yearly. 3
In the Performance of the New Minister of Environment and his Team 3
In the Performance of the New Minister of Agriculture and his Team 3
Enlightening Flashes in the Environmental Journey during the Year 3
New projects 3
Providing most of the Financing for the Garbage Mountain in Saida 3
New Projects in the Frame of Solid Waste Treatment 3
Italian Grant from the National Council for Scientific Researches 3
At the Environmental Policy Level: 3
The Pope’s Message on the Eve of the 43rd World Day of Peace 3
Media Support to the Environment 3
Responding to Copenhagen 3
Initiatives Launched by some Companies 3
Walid Jumblatt’s Initiative: 3
The Environment: a Core concern of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities 3
Akdar Dayem’s Initiative 3
Reforestation Initiative of the Ministry of Environment 3
Environmental Issues 3
The Condition of Forests 3
Forest Rules: 3
Violations of Underground Waters 3
The Uncontrolled Spread of Poultry Farms 3
Pollution of Rivers and Watercourses 3
Loss of Interest towards Israel’s Lawsuit 3
Dynamite Hunting 3
The English report consists of 8,000 words, and it briefly addresses the main achievements and environmental violations made in Lebanon in 2009. It also states several environmental events that occurred in Lebanon, analyzes them, and evaluates the government’s performance and response in a year marked by parliamentary elections and major crises, especially the formation of the prospective government and shifts in alliances. The report presents the personal opinion of the author and his team.
Environment and 2009: A Summary
Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009 aimed to set the global temperature rising rates below two degrees Celsius, and to reduce carbon dioxide rates to less than three hundred molecules in a million air molecules. However, before delving into the Copenhagen economic and political analysis, we have to answer a common question, “What does it mean that gas emissions and global temperature will continue to rise?”
The answer is that constant emissions mean a decrease in the quantity of water available for irrigation and drinking. Thus, many agricultural lands would become uncultivable; more hurricanes, floods, and natural disasters would occur; and sea levels would rise as to cause the inundation of many cities such as London, and other cities, particularly those located on islands. Eventually, this will inevitably lead to a gradual human degeneration starting from populations that are least financially and technologically capable of facing crises i.e., nations of the world's least developed countries, which are the least ones responsible for causing such a crisis, until reaching everyone in year 2050.
The summit began with great expectations. These expectations were not associated with actual data or strong will of some countries to reduce gas emissions. The U.S. Congress had not yet adopted President Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by seventeen percent by 2020, despite of the modesty of the suggested percentage. The reason is that the war in the U.S., between oil companies and polluting industries, on one hand, and enlightened scientists, politicians and economists, on the other, is not over. In addition, China and India were not yet ready to accept binding decisions putting them under Western control and to abandon economic growth for the benefit of the earth.
As for the European Union, the situation was different, because the old continent had already decided to lead the world morally through adopting costly and difficult economical reforms, serving as a role model for the next period.
Copenhagen Summit could not ultimately be up to the hopes, because the conflict between the most developed countries and the United States, about the approach for calculating the emissions’ degrees, intensified. The main problem is: "Do the emissions’ degrees get calculated compared to the average emissions per capita or in total for the country?"
Everyone wanted to resolve the crisis of greenhouse gas emissions, but not at the expense of their economy. For what it appears that no government can risk there forth losing more jobs or facing more economic downturns in the context of the global financial crisis which tremendous repercussions are still worsening, and thus losing the elections as a result of Copenhagen. The possibility of risk-taking among governments decreased, even if it came in the interest of restructuring their economies through creating new job opportunities in the fields of green economies, such as renewable energy.
Had the Copenhagen conference succeeded (and it failed for legitimate reasons), it would have restructured the global economy and taken it out of the financial crisis. But, even if such a summit succeed apparently (binding decisions to reduce emissions), who would monitor, measure and control emissions within a country (without its consent), in order to determine the extent of the country’s commitment to the mentioned agreement? Even if a country accepted this, according to which legislation will it be held accountable and penalized? What authority will be in charge of holding countries accountable in the event of breach or failure? And how? Who would be able to fine or call to account countries that have considerable military, economic, or political means (veto in the Security Council, for example ...), other than a country whose means are even more important, and exclusively for reasons of self-interest?
We believe that neither Copenhagen nor other conferences would be able to provide any solutions unless the United Nations is reinforced through essential reforms, enabling it to act as a global government which has the means to properly apply international legislations. Finally, Copenhagen Summit is considered a basic step towards human reawakening to an existential subject threatening human life in the absence of other scientific solutions aiming to reduce emissions.
Lebanon and the Conference: Action, Interaction and Reaction
The Lebanese government was formed on the verge of the start of Copenhagen Summit. Prime Minister Saad Hariri led the Lebanese delegation to the Danish capital. This decision marked a real act of faith by him of the importance of environment and related issues in a country such Lebanon that was not used to giving much attention to these issues. Although the Prime Minister went to Copenhagen, the Lebanese state was not ready for such an event, since the crisis of forming a government had dragged on for months, and exhausted the people and administration officials’ hopes.
Before government formation, the ministries were in the caretaker government’s inactive period. Thus, they did not prepare themselves to participate in the Copenhagen Summit.
It should be noted that a caretaker government is not entitled to attend such conferences.
An official Lebanese delegation headed by the Prime Minister went to Copenhagen, but the delegation members did not have enough information about issues related to the effects of climate variability in Lebanon, such as decreasing rates of snow on mountains and changes in rain distribution. The conference was Hariri’s first appearance as a prime minister in front of the international community. He was full of hopes and short with available means, nevertheless hopes to achieve significant results are still high.
Lebanon’s Paper to the Conference
The Ministry of Environment did not post Lebanon's paper to Copenhagen conference on its website. Most of the information we have about the paper were taken from the minister of environment or the prime minister’s speech.
The speech of Prime Minister Saad Hariri included the following: "We chose to commit to increase our usage of renewable energy up to 12 percent by 2020. In this regard, we look forward to receive support from developed nations, in order to implement a series of measures with the objective of decreasing the effects. "
Lebanon’s paper also focused on the losses of the country due to global warming, which were estimated by the World Bank at 100 million U.S. dollars annually. The paper refers to tourism and agriculture as the mostly affected sectors according to the minister of environment who informed Al-Nahar newspaper that Lebanon submitted "a comprehensive working paper including an environmental and economic vision which is the basis of the ministry work plan, to be launched beginning next year". He also estimated the total international financing needed to implement the projects suggested in the paper at $ 500 million U.S. dollars. These projects target different sectors revolving around four main pillars: the replacement of taxi cars by fuel-efficient cars, wind power generation, support of the agricultural sector facing drought and desertification.
It seems that Lebanon's paper to the conference lacked accurate figures and data due to the short notice given to the government for the preparation of files. Just before the government was granted confidence votes, Prime Minister Hariri’ announced his intention to participate in the Copenhagen Summit, hence surprising everyone.
Personally, I tend to believe that Lebanon’s paper to the Copenhagen conference still needs further research and re-drafting to become more scientific and likely to gain funding, and hence be presented as a good reference at Mexico’s conference in the coming months. In addition, I still do not know the rationale behind the Lebanese proposition in Copenhagen related to the reliance on renewable energy up to 12 % by 2020. Will we get to the 12 percent by raising our dependence on hydropower for electricity generation (for example increasing the productivity of Qaraoun energy plant) or will we rely on solar energy? To what extent? And how? But I think that the financing requested by Lebanon is ambitious. I call for publishing the paper and debating it to strengthen its content and render it more susceptible for implementation in the context of the financial crisis faced by developed countries.
Climate Change Impact on Lebanon
The biological diversity in Lebanon is the sector exposed most to the damages of the climate changes in the country in the last period. This is highlighted by the increased deforestation and cedars cut-off. In addition, Lebanon witnessed an increase in the frequency of floods and streams because of rain fall in unprecedented quantities and in short periods. This means a bigger soil loss ecologically, and consequently degradation in the capacity of the soil to absorb water, in addition to the progressive decrease of springs’ water during summer also because of the reduced snow quantities on mountains summits.
The abundant rainfall during the months of March, September, October and November clearly expresses the situation in this frame. This, in addition to the increase of demand on drinking water which is decreasing because of the degeneration of groundwater stocks due to the dissipation of the sources which feed them such as snow and soil (through the deforestation).
The increased floods resulting from streams which damage the citizens’ houses adjacent to rivers (such as Litani River) constitute the grounds to be used to apply the laws related to protect the rivers banks and watercourses. In addition, the Ministry of Energy and Water, and the ministry of Interior Affairs should apply the necessary procedures in this frame; not only to protect the water courses but also to protect the citizen from the repercussions of his outrageous encroachment on the nature.
Climate Change and Vegetative Cover
The hydrologist “Wilson Rizk” considers that the Lebanese climate is tending to be equatorial and to desertification; this means a remarkable decrease in the forest surfaces which started to retreat to places with more altitude in search for humidity. There is no doubt that the increase in temperature and the misdistribution of rainfall are considered as an indirect reason of forest fires, whereas the soil becomes incapable of absorbing the huge quantities of water falling at once. Consequently, the soil humidity lessens and the forest fires increase.
Moreover, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has included the “Cedars of Lebanon” in the list of endangered species because of the absence of snow from the summits of Lebanese mountains. This means the multiplication and generation of diseases due to the temperature increase, and consequently this facilitates the elimination of Cedars forests according to Dr. Nabil Nemer, specialist in forests entomology.
In the Huge Incidents in the Country and Their Environmental Impacts
In the Elections and their Environmental Impact
The current elections law, which was endorsed on September 28th, 2008, an amended version of Law dated 1960. The elections constituencies were divided into smaller ones based on the Constituency. This distribution is unfair regarding the different non confessional communities and groups in this country in general, and the environmental groups in particular. It rather increases the confessional and tribal affiliation at the expense of the national and environmental awareness. The results and effects of elections have strengthened the narrow regional, confessional and familial thinking at the expense of the assembling one; thus the environmental problems that the country is facing became nearly impossible to solve. We believe that the implemented Lebanese Parliamentary system will find itself helpless regarding the need to solve huge crisis such as the solid wastes, sea and air pollution, in addition to other national issues which cannot be treated, nor their impacts and repercussions in a certain Constituency or region”. In addition, such law makes the influence of the environmentalists and their access to the parliamentary symposium became impossible because they are minorities dispersed between Lebanese constituencies, confessions and regions, so the mixed system based electoral law remains the most successful solution in Lebanon.
Increase of the Environmental Violations
Increase of the Forests Cutting Permits
The increase in the number of cutting permits appeared outrageous in some constituencies which were characterized by their green intact cover to a big extent, such as Batroun constituency (where the green cover constitutes 40% of the total surface of lands). Thus, whoever moved from the coastline of the abovementioned constituency to its high regions from September to December 2009 felt the bad quality of air and its heaviness due to its pollution with the CO2 emitted by the kilns spread over the forests adjacent to the public roads.
It is important to note that the majority of cutting activities are legalized by virtue of permits which were issued during the mandate of the ex-minister of agriculture Elias Skaf during the elections period. In addition, anyone can note from his own car that the cutting and pruning activities do not comply with the technical conditions stipulated by the permits.
The religious endowments’ lands constitute a big number of those violated surfaces. Some cutting activities threaten the public safety in some places neighbouring the public roads dues to the link between the recession of the vegetative green cover and the erosion in the sloping lands, as it is the case for Deir Mar Yacoub Forest owned by the Lebanese Maronite Monastery and adjacent to Tannourine Highway, in the waterfalls area.
The increase in forest cutting rate is linked to the raise in petroleum prices despite the support the government provides to the diesel used for heating.
The legalized attempts to violate the coastline with the coming elections increased, however the presence of Minister Ghazi Aridi at the head of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport provided a guarantee to protect the rest of the coastal interface especially in the region between Batroun and Amchit in North Lebanon.
In addition, the work on abrogating Decree No. 955 (Official Gazette dated 23/11/2007, issue No. 74) – which granted to Lebanese Coasts Development Company that owns a total of 3000 m2 (realties No. 262, 263 and 297 On Kfar Abida beach, and related to investing 37026 m2 of maritime public properties to establish a big touristic project – occupied a large part of our activities.
The Lebanese media (L’Orient le Jour, Addiyar, Al-Akhbar, and New TV) constituted the most successful weapon facing that attempt which would have added more violations to the series of violations and touristic projects negatively affecting the Lebanese maritime coast. Moreover, the Lebanese situation and the Lebanese rules of games were taken into account in this frame, in addition to the Media.
It is important to note that the Location on Kfar Abida coast and beach, which should have hosted the project of the Lebanese Coasts Development Company, is one of 33 coastal locations which have been selected by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) to be protected in view of their geological, natural and archaeological uniqueness. As well, the specified location should have been included in the protected area declared by the minister of agriculture on September 18th, 2009 in Batroun’s costal line expect of the refusal of the mayor who has commercial interests in the project. The Kfar Abida case gained a special interest and importance because it was the main case that could stop the endless hunger of businessmen to invest in maritime violations and non environmental maritime touristic projects (noting that the maritime interface and the coastal line became very limited).
It is known that losing the coasts and beaches will eventually decrease the country’s capacities to compete with other countries on the touristic level. In addition, Sea filling, despite its contribution in increasing the global surface of the country, creates changes in the maritime currents movement which negatively affects the fauna, and consequently eliminates the source of living of the fishermen and uncovering the beaches from sand and gravels while sinking the rest with them.
In addition, Sea Filling has direct economic repercussions of the citizens. We noticed through a simple calculation study based on the working rate of small restaurants on the mentioned beach, that approximately 15 citizens will bear totally the amount of about $ 1,500,000 (cost of entry to a private beach for one day is of $ 10 at least) because of granting the location of Kfar Abida Project to the Lebanese Coasts Development Company.
In the Government and the Designation of the Minister
The President of the Republic General Michel Suleiman named MP Saad Hariri (due to mandatory parliamentary consultations) to form a government for two consecutive times during year 2009. His Excellency was not able of forming the government the first time, but he successfully did on the second time. The decrees of forming the government were announced on November 9th, 2009 to the Lebanese people from the Presidential Palace in Baabda after a crisis which lasted for months. The Secretary General of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Suhail Bawji announced the names of the ministers of the new government, which included 13 new ministers, 11 from the preceding government and 5 from previous governments.
Mr. Mohamed Naji Rahal, born on March 22nd, 1978, was named minister of Environment. According to his Curriculum Vitae, Minister Rahal has a bachelor in Law from the Lebanese university.
The selection of the new minister of Environment has caused many wonders inside and outside the Future movement regarding the feasibility of his nomination and designation to the position and the extent of compliance between his qualifications and the requirements and challenges of the phase marked by the global warming issue and Copenhagen Conference and its aftermath.
Besides, Minister Rahal considered in many interviews that his designation is an encouraging step and message for the Lebanese ordinary youth. Indeed, the new minister showed an honest desire to work and be open to all parties and choices. The prime minister delegated one of his assistant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Beirut – Mr. Edgar Shehab – to guide and advise the new minister.
Assigning Mr. Shehab as an environmental expert to the Ministry of Environment, by President Hariri, has been criticized by some as a move that might constitute a conflict of interest and in particular that Mr. Shehab, is the person in charge of the environmental program within the UNDP
In the Environmental Part of the Ministerial Statement
The government presided by the Saad Hariri worked hard since its first hours after its formation on the ministerial statement which was produced in 22 pages full scape paper. It included four main parts: the political and public tendencies of the government (clauses 1 to 24), Economic, financial and social part (clauses 25 to 29), citizens priority part (11 clauses) and Ministries programmes and priorities part (pages 13 to 22). As for the environmental part, it was entitled “Environment Conservation” and held number five. It literally includes the following:
1- Forming a national committee to follow up on the climate change and desertification issues;
2- Finding green areas in cities and towns and reforesting by planting 2 million trees per year in all regions to prevent from forest fires.
3- Finding quick solutions for the random dumps spread on the Lebanese territories and adopting alternatives to get rid of solid waste starting from sorting to the incinerators.
4- Completing the wastewater networks and commissioning them, and implementing the treatment plants.
5- Launching a practical plan with incentives to replace the taxis car with others fuel saving.
6- Establish a mechanism to encourage the use of Clean Technologies and renewable energies (CDM).
The environmental part in the current ministerial statement is more applicable, in form, than the previous one. However, it omitted a big number of pending environmental issues and environmental concerns which were stipulated by the previous statement. In addition to this, some of its parts were described as being closer to a project stone or a business plan especially the part related to planting two million trees yearly.
In the Performance of the New Minister of Environment and his Team
The Prime Minister mandated one of his assistant – Mr. Edgar Shehab, UN personnel in charge of the Environmental division at UNDP in Beirut – to cope with the Minister of Environment. A step, which is "questionable"; since it falls within the "conflicting interests" Zone between a UN program (UNDP) duties & a member state apparatus (MoE) work; so, it is uncommon to nominate a UNDP staff ( head of the Environment Division at UNDP in Lebanon) to preside the a Minister's of Environment Cabinet, unless there is an urgent & a pressing need. It is worth mentioning that in some countries, with deep crisis such as Somalia or Afghanistan, some UN programs take over the local governments' role to provide the people with the basic needs for survival.
I wish an independent technical expert would be nominated to the Minister to provide him with the necessary technical support upon his request. An expert whose mandate does not go beyond the limit, to form later on an obstacle that faces the minister’s communication and contact with the green community and the working team at the ministry, beheaded by the General Director.
In addition, we have felt a tendency of the minister’s office to transfer amounts from the ministry’s humble budget to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Lebanon to finance a project aiming at forming a technical team in parallel with the ministry’s employees to support the minister. And we are afraid that this step might lead to exhausting the ministry’s scarce resources in order to create an unneeded parallel team in the light of the existence of a permanent young team in the ministry with all the necessary qualifications and experience required for this field.
Furthermore, the minister has taken a decision to limit all the external relations of the ministry to his office because some organizations have protested regarding the non cooperation of the general director with them and his desire to deal exclusively with some organizations and not the others in accordance to the credibility, according to his opinion. And since that decision a lot of confusion dominated the relationship between the minister and the general director.
We are afraid that the least the cooperation between the minister and the general director is the more negative effects it will have on the quality of the performance of the ministry and the establishment of the environmental policies.
In the Performance of the New Minister of Agriculture and his Team
Dr. Hussein Hajj Hassan – an MP from the Hezbollah bloc – was designated minister of agriculture. The new minister of agriculture has expressed his wish to organize a number of the agricultural sectors such as livestock and poultry farming, and others. In addition, as soon as he took over his tasks as a minister of agriculture, Dr. Hussein Hajj Hassan stopped the permits of cutting and pruning forests which were very common, and increased to reach its maximum during the term of office of Minister Elie Skaf especially during the parliamentary elections season. This step constituted a true act of belief in the necessity to protect the green cover in Lebanon from the new minister. Furthermore, it is obvious that the new minister follows up everything with precision and has a high sense of responsibility, in addition to flexibility in dealing with people and accepting the constructive criticism. This was highlighted by his response to the claims requesting the stopping of the random extension of poultry farms between the residential areas and agricultural fields.
Enlightening Flashes in the Environmental Journey during the Year
Providing most of the Financing for the Garbage Mountain in Saida
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has granted through the Council for Development and Reconstruction CDR and in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and by an initiative and effort from the Prime Minister Siniora and the minister Hariri, twenty million U.S. dollars to treat the Garbage Mountain in Saida. In addition to that, Al Walid Ben Talal Organization has offered a grant five years ago, which constituted the main initiative to work on finding the necessary financing for the Garbage Mountain in Saida. However, we didn’t notice (until the end of 2009) the true start of field work in order to establish the maritime barrier and other main steps of the project.
New Projects in the Frame of Solid Waste Treatment
It has been noticed at the level of the Solid Waste Management issue that some humble steps were taken by the State, where the minister of Administrative reform Ibrahim Shamseddine who signed two contracts with the European Union to establish two waste plants for Baalbek Municipalities Union and Minyé Municipalities Union. As for the southern town of Ansar, it has received from the European Union during 2009 the necessary amounts to operate and maintain the town’s waste plant.
Italian Grant from the National Council for Scientific Researches
The Italian government offered the scientific boat “Qana” to the National Council for Scientific Researches. It is a moving and floating maritime laboratory to explore the whole Lebanese coastline to study the salinity and water temperature, the currents’ speed and their direction, and the pollution rate. This step is essential in a country that has a lack of exact information about its ports and sea. We hope that the National Council provides the interested people with the suitable reports to strengthen the control over the polluters and environmental decision-makers in this field.
At the Environmental Policy Level:
The Pope’s Message on the Eve of the 43rd World Day of Peace
The message, entitled “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace”, addressed by Pope Benedict XVI on the last day of year 2009, on the eve of the 43rd World Day of Peace, contained meaningful environmental warnings. Benedict XVI pointed out the importance of the bond between human beings and nature which is a gift in need preservation since it is necessary for peaceful human coexistence. His Holiness asked: “How can we remain indifferent in front of problems provoked by trends such as climate change, desertification, deterioration of the production of vast agricultural lands, pollution of rivers and subterranean waters, lack of diversity amongst living creatures, … and destruction of tropical forests, as well as other issues…” He also indicated that “human kind is in need of a radical cultural change and that it should become aware of principles forming the foundation of a better future for everyone”. After referring to the first few pages of the Genesis, he concluded that “All existing things belong to God, whom entrusted them to the human kind. However, this does not mean the latter can freely use God’s creations. When human beings try to play God’s role, instead of being his assistants, they’ll eventually lose control over nature which they abuse, while they ought to rule it”. Therefore, humans have got the duty to rule, preserve and take care of God’s creations in a responsible manner.
His Holiness also indicated the necessity to build true solidarity amongst different generations. “Since we are the heirs of our predecessors and, at the same time, profit from our contemporaries’ work, we therefore have duties toward everyone and cannot simply ignore next generations who will ensure the continuity of human kind. This solidarity, as well as being a gain for us, is also a duty and a responsibility bestowed upon us toward future generations. This responsibility must be individually held by nations and collectively by the international community. The latter has the duty to find institutionalized methods to organize the use of non-renewable resources, along with the agreement of poor countries, in order to plan for the future”.
The pope also pointed out that the large number of modern scientific means and renewing methods can provide satisfactory solutions to the relationship between human beings and nature. Moreover, he underlined that facing environmental issues is not only driven by the fear of nature’s decay, but also in order to achieve true international coordination called for by love, justice and public wellness (9, 10).
On another hand, his Holiness called for environmentally-responsible education, which preserves a correct “human environment”. He also insisted on not violating human life throughout all its phases, human dignity and the family message through which children learn how to love the other and respect nature.
His Holiness concluded by saying that an unbreakable bond exists between God, human beings and all living creatures, and that humans ought to preserve the environment, making way for a pacifist world. Moreover, the pope called everyone to be aware of the fact that the preservation of God’s creations and reaching Peace were interdependent. Therefore, “if you wish to build peace, preserve creation”.
Peace reigning at first between nature and human beings was sent to oblivion by “sin” against God and the human kind. It destroyed the gift of love named that the Bible named “Paradise”. You can go back to that paradise through “redemption” which will allow you to surrender to God’s mercy and love, as well as to reconcile with oneself, with nature and consequently, with God. This heavenly motherland planted on the border of the desert and standing on the line of latitude 25 which solely provides the temperate characteristic of its nature and people.
His Holiness the Pope had placed the entire Catholic Church in front of a moral responsibility towards environmental violations occurring around the world and had pointed the path to preserving this earth as a paradise for human kind. I think that such a message, emanating from the highest catholic authority, had launched a real revolution in the sphere of environmental awareness amongst nations and their leaders. However, despite the Pope’s message, some Christian clergymen in Lebanon do not give the environment enough significance in the administration of clerical lands. They often prefer direct financial gain to the sustainability of resources and the protection of the earth, called “Paradise” by his Holiness.
Many clergymen’s speeches, on New Year’s Day 2010, were influenced by the message of Benedict XVI. I therefore hope that the speeches of Christian religious leaders will be padded by references and fatwas issued by Islamic scholars in many Arab countries. The preservation of the environment, religious-related, thus becomes a sacred matter. I already foresee the tremendous impact that this trend will have on Lebanon and the environment of the Arab countries.
Media Support to the Environment
Medias were increasingly supporting environmental issues during the year 2009. This trend reveals the wish of the media sector to guide and instruct people on issues that are more important than daily politics. Hence, the number of environmental news reports on channels rose despite the escalation of major political obligations in the country, such as elections, and repetitive political crises, namely the Cabinet establishment crisis which lasted several months.
Responding to Copenhagen
Initiatives Launched by some Companies
A considerable number of Lebanese companies have adopted the “Carbon Neutral Business” strategy, in order for their work to be more compliant with environmental criteria. They have reduced their gas emissions (namely carbon dioxide CO2) as much as possible; they have respected suitable insulation methods and have replaced lighting systems with other systems that are more efficient and less energy-consuming. Furthermore, they have partially opted for renewable energy (mostly, the sun) in order to diminish fuel consumption. The diplomatic missions in Beirut (for instance, the British Embassy) have represented the best model for such orientations.
Lebanese Tobacco Board’s Initiative
The Lebanese Tobacco Board has announced which aim to diminish its pollution percentage resulting from productive activities, by diminishing its part in the greenhouse gas emissions in particular. This measure constituted an unprecedented one within the Lebanese government bodies, and it provoked many reactions describing tobacco as a harmful and pollutant material.
The company REGIE has considered that the green measures it had taken, despite their simplicity, have resulted in a decrease in the production expenses at reasonable limits. Moreover, the board announced many other measures aiming at increasing the rates of tobacco waste recycling, and rationalizing the use of pesticides and other chemical products in tobacco culture, completing the rationalizing of the power use and the reliance on solar power in part to light the board’s central building and the factory, and organizing an environmental prize in order to activate the sustainable development in the country.
Hence, it is necessary to encourage and publicize such initiatives and to follow the steps that are taken in this scope.
Walid Jumblatt’s Initiative:
During the year 2009, on the eighth of November, the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt launched a pioneering environmental and economic project. Jumblatt’s initiative aims at cutting the electricity bills of his village. Instead of using the EDL (Electricity of Lebanon) in full, it suggested the use of alternative energy in part, by using the solar heater. The project also stipulated providing all the houses of his village with solar energy equipments to ensure hot water. He committed himself to finance such installations. It is also worth noting that the project tools are manufactured in Lebanon, with high qualifications and specifications equaling those of international companies, in cooperation and coordination with the municipality. The number of installed devices reached 105, covering 90% of the village homes.
The competent engineer who followed up the project has declared that this step falls within the scope of an orientation aiming at transforming the village into a model “green village” that reduces the use of environment pollutants and cuts lowers electricity consumption. He is also in contact with groundwater refinery and sanitation units. The second phase should consist in rationalizing the general lighting. The said project study showed that each household the village needs an average of 9000 Kilowatts/hour i.e. 800 dollars per year. Yet, by using the solar heater, the household will save an electricity power of 4500 kilowatts/hour per year, i.e. 50% of the power deemed necessary for the house. This implies a decrease in the electricity bill, by almost 500 dollars per year, in addition to the alleviation of the pressure and load on the main network. If this project is publicized all over the Lebanese lands, 20 to 25% of the power consumption will be saved in general.
The Environment: a Core concern of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities
Akdar Dayem’s Initiative
The forest fires that occur every year at the dawn of the summer season has pushed the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities in 2008 to launch an initiative fighting against forest fires in Lebanon, to ensure fire extinguishing helicopters and cars that allow a more efficient firefighting.
Therefore,” Akhdar Dayem” association was founded by virtue of decree no.1351, to support the efforts aiming at fighting against forest fires and purchasing the necessary devices for this purpose (fire extinguishing helicopters and cars…), provided that the purchased equipments would be granted unconditionally to the Lebanese government. As for the founder members of “Akhdar Dayem” Association, they are: Fadi Abboud, Antoine Choueiry, Fadi Fawwaz, Talal Makdesi, Philippe Abi Akl, Brigadier Général Darwish Hobeika, Sawsan Fakhreddine, Nadim Kassar, Pascal Al Choueiry Saad, Fadi Saab, Salah Asseiran and Philippe Skaf.
“Akhdar Dayem” Association carries out this campaign in cooperation with Bureau Veritas as technical auditor, and KPMG as financial auditor, in order to guarantee the transparency of the technical and financial procedures for the purchase of tools.”
The issue of the purchase of fire-extinguishing helicopters by “Akhdar Dayem” association was the scoop of the environmental season. It was considered a key step in settling a chronic issue that might destroy the green wealth of Lebanon. Yet this is not enough, since the government and the civil society are requested to take many steps to guarantee the cutback of annual fires which exceed 1500 hectares of forests, according to the figures of the Ministry of Environment. Hence, a national institution for forests is to be constituted to undertake the issue-related tasks, and it shall be include representatives of the concerned parties. Meanwhile, the concerned parties are expected to continue coordination through the committee that was established Siniora, to protect the remaining woodlands, by carrying out a series of projects aiming at providing fire alarm systems and fighting fires from their beginning , along with increasing environmental awareness among individuals and communities.
As for the initiative of “Akhdar Dayem, I would just quote what a newspaper wrote about the subject:
“Akhdar Dayem” association made a good buy of 3 Sikorsky helicopters that will take off from Britain soon and land in Lebanon, in the middle of an official celebration prepared by the minister of interior Ziad Baroud. These helicopters are expected to contribute to reducing forest fires that spoil 3000 hectares of the green cover every year. The latest one occurred last Saturday in Jouawayya and Hanwiya where 8 dunams burnt up. Could we have avoided such loss if the helicopters were available in Lebanon?
In a race against the real time of fires, before that the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities becomes fully busy with the electoral process, a competent team from the Lebanese air force is completing the final testing for three Sikorsky (S-70A) helicopters at the airport of Thurston, before its takeoff towards Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport
The minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud did not announce the date of arrival of helicopters that will undertake the task of forest fire fighting in Lebanon. Yet, it declared in an interview with “Al Akhbar” that “the arrival of helicopters has become imminent”. The good buy that “Akhdar Dayem” association achieved to the benefit of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities is the first of its kind in the history of Lebanon, and maybe in the world. No non-governmental association had beforehand purchased quasi military helicopters to the benefit of the government.
“Akhdar Dayem” association had appointed a competent committee to perform the purchase. Hence, a detailed conditions sheet was drawn up, and bids from 21 competent companies were included. The successful bidder was the US Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a branch of United Technology Corporation, which is considered one of the giant companies in the aviation industry.
Minister Ziad Baroud has indicted that “Akhdar Dayem” association took a bold decision for what might be subject to debate, with respect to the purchase of 3 helicopters after it was decided to buy two helicopters and 50 fire extinguishing cars to fight forest fires. He explained: “this does not mean that we gave up the purchase of cars but, to the contrary, the issue is concluded. Yet, this will not happen soon because we are still in the phase of studying the bids. That is why we preferred to buy 3 helicopters for now and to collect further donations for the purchase of vehicles whose value is expected to reach 5 million dollars”.
On 20.10.2008, M. Baroud had taken the initiative to establish “Akhdar Dayem” association composed by a number of environmental activities as well as representatives of some private sector companies and economic institutions. This association managed to collect donations at the value of 16 million dollars, the half of which was donated by Deputy Saad Hariri, banks, businessmen, insurance companies…
The association expects seeing the Lebanese public reacting to the scene of the arrival of helicopters, which will push citizens to offer more donations for the purchase of vehicles.
The association had, since the beginning, suggested the idea to organize “Teletoon” (a TV Live broadcasting day) to collect donations. Yet, it realized that this needs long and anticipated preparations to guarantee its success. Therefore, it collected the donations by calling directly businessmen, economic institutions and banks.
The Website of Sikorsky Company notes that the S-70A helicopter, that is designed to fight forest fires, can move quickly and intervene in bumpy mountains. This helicopter obtained an excellence award from the council of Los Angeles, after it contributed to extinguishing the huge fire that occurred in the south of the province in 2004, as the forest fire extinguishers have three helicopters of that type.
This helicopter is known for its capacity to throw water in a concentrated and intensive way on the target zone. It is equipped with a water tank on the bottom, having capacity for 1000 gallons i.e. 3785.4 liters, as well as additional tanks having capacity for 12 thousand liters. The helicopter was designed to have a water bottling capacity while flying, through a long fireplug that withdraws water from the source to the helicopter in less than 3 minutes, which enhances the efficiency of the quick comeback to the fire zone.
In addition to fire-fighting, tanks may be filled with pesticides to spray on the plants. Furthermore, the helicopter is able to perform rescue operations during natural disasters, as it is equipped with an ambulant medical clinic, and seats designed to transport patients and injured people.
Reforestation Initiative of the Ministry of Environment
On the occasion of the tree day 2009, the Ministry of Environment declared that soon it will be launching the third phase of the national reforestation plan that it had commenced in 2002. This plan encompassed, in its first and second phases, the reforestation of 305 hectares and 2708 hectares respectively in 50 sites over the Lebanese regions. Then, in 2009 the plan encompassed seeding operations in the air in 11 sites on an overall area of 160 hectares approximately.
Al Safir Newspaper
The Condition of Forests
According to a study led by the World Bank, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and the Organization of forestry riches (in 2008), the global area of forest lands equal to 106.178 hectares; however, 80% of them are endangered because of fires which destroy every year nearly 1.500 hectares. Indeed, the percentage of forest area in Lebanon has decreased to 13% in the past few years, according to information issued by the Ministry of Environment, while it used to reach 35% of Lebanon’s area between 1960 and 1965.
The Reasons behind Forest Destruction and the Means to preserve them
Lebanon is yearly the witness of a decrease in forestry area. This trend is caused by the expansion of constructions and rural depopulation, agricultural expansion, reckless deforestation, climate change, fires, wars, overgrazing, epidemics and illnesses, lack of environmental awareness, socioeconomic situations, over-quarrying, bad implementation of laws and administrative measures.
As we notice, these reasons are either natural or human; however, even natural causes can be lessened with some environmental awareness and common sense. That’s why the Ministry of Environment insists in the importance of partnership between public, civil, academic and private sectors to spread awareness and implement environmental principals in our daily lives. By doing so, we would be preserving natural resources, and specifically trees and their sustainability, as well as encouraging individual and collective initiatives which affect, directly and indirectly, the preservation and protection of tree life. For example, the price of a 50-year-old stone pine reaches 75 million Lebanese pounds, therefore each individual must lessen the consummation of papers, use them several times, gather and send them to be recycled and, if possible, use paper which was recycled or produced out of sustainable forests.
In that scope, we ought to be aware of the importance of forests in the following fields:
- Preserving biological diversity and natural ecosystems
- Protecting the soil from erosion
- Strengthening the soil’s capacity to absorb rain water.
- Fixing nurturing elements in the soil.
- Producing wood and secondary forest products such as pine, carob pods, mushrooms, honey, etc.
- Purifying the air.
- Enriching ecological entertainment and tourism.
- Providing natural panoramas.
Violations of Underground Waters
Legal violations of Lebanon’s underground water reserve were ongoing due to the corruption rooming in the Offices of underground water and proprietorship at the Ministry of Energy and Water resources. In fact, 580 licenses to dig artesian wells were issued in 20 days, while the general manager was out of the country. Consequently, M. Hekmat Chahrour (Director of the Office of Proprietorship), M. Sabeh Chouheib (Director of the Office of underground waters) and M. Adnan Dargham (Director of studies) were transferred to Central investigation for their involvement in the case. Investigator Mohammad Abboud is currently studying the case.
But I consider these measures, despite their seriousness, are not enough at all. I call upon the Minister of Energy and Water to follow up on the file personally, and to bring those involved to the public prosecutor, after defining the subject as an offence against the security of the Lebanese people and the foundations of country’s stability and natural resources. Maintaining a strict strategy in such issues prevents the country’s natural recourses and underground water from any future violations. It is worth mentioning that a very small number of agents are responsible for following up and wells transmitting license files in return for an amount of money ranging between two thousand-four thousand dollars for each well license. It is also important to mention that, in 2009, the Ministry of Energy and Water resources had granted 1800 artesian well licenses out of the 2500 demands presented to the ministry.
The Uncontrolled Spread of Poultry Farms
The subject of uncontrolled spread of poultry farms came out to the open in 2009. Moreover, the spread of this type of (mostly illegal) polluting activity amongst inhabitation units has got negative effects on public health and the environment. Indeed, chicken droppings, recklessly used or stored in the surroundings of farms, contain a large number of microbes directly or indirectly harming close-by populations and agricultural areas. The danger is increased if those farms are opened near a water source or underground water containers. This may lead to the leakage of heavy metals, such as copper, or microbes such as streptococcus or Salmonella bacteria, from droppings, and into drinking water. What happened in the village of Hajoula, in Jbeil, is a perfect example of illegal poultry farming.
On another hand, the Ministry of Agriculture had declared its intention to organize that lively sector which is a source of revenue for many Lebanese families. However, all ministries and their offices ought to be stricter as to license issuing (ministries of Health and Agriculture) and implementing laws.
Pollution of Rivers and Watercourses
The case of fruit and vegetable contamination, caused by the pollution of watercourses, sewage systems and solid wastes, came out to the open in 2009 after a declaration of the former minister of the Environment, before the formation of the new government. The accusation raised a storm of protests in the media, as well as fear between consumers. The solution remains to find funding for sewage projects in the country, in order to protect water sources and, by extension, the soil and its products from pollution.
On another hand, pollution caused by the production of olive oil, was also detected in certain liquid waste courses. However, this type of contamination did not prove to be harmful for human health, although it changes the color, the taste, the thickness and the acidity of the water. There were no radical solutions for many regions such as Koura, and the deserted areas of Batroun.
Furthermore, the pollution of irrigation water leads to a deterioration of the soil. This fact will have a tremendous economical impact on many farms after the decline of their products’ quality.
Loss of Interest towards Israel’s Lawsuit
In 2009, a loss of interest was noticed towards the lawsuit filed against Israel for its environmental violations during the war of July 2006. Therefore, we tried to enquire about the accomplishments of the Ministry of Environment comparing to the environmental clause stipulated by the ministerial declaration. The interesting part was, in particular, related to forcing Israel to bear the cost of damages caused by the fuel stain and cluster bombs inflicted upon agricultural lands.
In the same context, we ought to mention that Israel was explicitly accused in that case, by a resolution issued by the UN during the first mandate of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Therefore, the lawsuit filed against Israel should be granted the importance it deserves. We hope that the ministers of Environment, Justice, Agriculture and Foreign affairs in the present government and during the following year, will take the necessary measures in order to obtain proper compensation, according to the UN resolution.
Following our intervention, with a number of the Southern civil society from the Southern, with the Minister of the Interior Affairs, illegal dynamite fishing was stopped in Tyre and its surroundings (as of second half of the year 2008). But in return, there has been an increased rate of licensing "compresseur" given by the Minister of Agriculture for divers in order to remove the outstanding fishing nets and the extraction of marine sponges. These licenses have been and were used for dynamite fishing again. Such actions are clear violations to the articles of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the marine environment which Lebanon is a signatory party to. Such harmful usage of licensing poses a serious danger to the safety of its users. It has led to the occurrence of total or partial paralysis within some divers (victims of their illegal usage of dynamite in water). Moreover, it also caused damage to the marine environment. Such an issue led to call upon the Minister of Agriculture to stop licensing, given that the realistic use of licensing is a form of circumvention of the law and a crime against the fishermen. It has been noticed that the sponge became rare in the bottom of the sea of Lebanese territorial waters, and if the nets of fishermen were caught in the deep water, can be removed in less than 24 hours using the Compressors. According to initial information, forty out of seven hundred fishermen in Sarafand Region suffer from either partial or complete paralysis, or loss of organ due to the illegal use of dynamite. We consider an use of dynamite in the South of the Litani basin is considered a violation to 1701 which prohibits trafficking or transporting explosive materials in the region. Such a violation led to a swift halt of such activities
Following the previous information, we consider that Lebanon should:
1- Develop the political system by voting an electoral law based on proportional representation. Such a step will enhance the importance of causes such as the environment, instead of favoritism, confessionalism and regionalism.
2- Diminish the fuel bill by reducing its dependence on that substance as follows:
1. Search for funding sources to settle the problems of EDL (Electricity of Lebanon) and its dependence on fuel oil.
2. Limit the importation of used cars.
3. Organize the public transportation sector.
Such measures also affect the emission of polluting gazes and therefore guarantee clean air in a touristic country.
3- To declare water emergency by having the Ministry of Power and Water halt issuing new artesian well licenses; study the means to end the effects of old licenses which do not meet technical terms; sue corrupt people so to issue extreme sanctions against each parties which violates underground water reserves belonging to the Lebanese people. The Minister should be the sole authority to issue artesian well licenses, once discussed the Board; as such approval should be binding in this regard.
4- To stop legitimizing any new sea breaches (in other terms, to issue decrees relevant to new breaches) and to look for initiatives like “the permanent green” one in order to fund the remaining uncemented lands all along the Lebanese seashore, through cooperating with local authorities (the municipal councils) and the rest of the Civil Society individuals (the associations and the private sector).
5- To stress the need for a financing project to achieve the sewerage projects, in order to protect the Lebanese sea and drinking water sources since they are a national wealth that should not be wasted.
6- To establish the National Forest Council to serve as a public administration ruled by the Cabinet or the minister of Environment. This Council has to prevent deforestation and must be enabled all necessary capabilities to achieve its duties.
7- To activate the work of the National Council of rock breakers and carry out necessary amendments of its Statutes so to secure the implementation of the terms stipulated by the licenses the Minister would grant, namely the rehabilitation of the locations of crushing plants.
8- To keep up with true partnership between the Ministry Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to establish environmental fundaments that will cement the status of Lebanon in the international forums in the fields that deal with key world and existential issues and not those relevant to conflicts or wars. Therefore, the Cedar land will, then, witness direct positive impacts as follows:
1. To improve the image of Lebanon internationally as an environmentally friendly country not only a country of wars and conflicts.
2. To attract funds for projects aiming at improving relevant (environmental) facilities, through improving the quality of life there (to improve the air and water quality and to save biological diversity).
3. To create an international network for Lebanon enabling it more support regarding environmental issues, such as fining Israel for the environmental damages it caused to Lebanon during July war, in order to prevent any future Israeli aggression that would harm the natural resources of the country, whether the sea, the agricultural lands or the water and air resources.
9- To set up a plan to enforce the recycling of solid waste once the plan is updated and developed, as the issue is of high importance.
10- To accelerate enacting new legislations for the following fields:
- To secure and monitor food safety, after the issue of agricultural pesticide residues has been highlighted.
- To organize animal breeding, aviculture and other agricultural sectors so they don’t cause environmental pollution.
Moreover, to increase awareness among laborers on how to implement the complete managerial principles to avoid disease-spreading among agricultural products and, therefore, decrease the pesticide residues in food, protect the laborer and save soil, air and water.
11- According to a study published by Takshe et. Al (2010) “The environmental damage encountered in Lebanon after its conflict with Israel in 2006 brought the environmental impact of warfare to public consciousness. Although environmental damage in Lebanon is sometimes prohibited, the lack of criminal prosecution for environmental war crimes suggests that environmental agreements do not provide an effective deterrent. Currently there is no clear definition on how environmental legislation can be made effective during both times of peace and war and the best way to make legislation work in times of chaos. There is a need for new legislation which covers all aspects of environmental protection Compensation is an important component of environmental protection and perpetrators of environmental damage could be held more responsible for restoring the environment. Within Lebanon, the
Ministry of Environment needs to be strengthened especially in a time where fundamental changes are needed due to the rapid changes happening in the environment. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the clean-up operation was the role played by NGOs. Despite an almost impossible situation, action was taken to initiate a clean-up operation. Facilitating and enhancing the role of NGOs in the response to environmental disasters may be as important as creating more punitive legal measures.” (Takshe et. al, 2010).
12- There is a need for local empowerment on the level of the Ministry of Environment and the collaboration of national organizations when it comes to environmental issues. Power relationships and interests can easily affect how different activities are managed in Lebanon. Power relationships are identified within alliances of political parties, most of which also maintain a sectarian identity. The change in leaders, through new elections, can lead to procedural changes. Both national and international priority issues can be seen listed on the Lebanese environmental agenda, but in order to be able to implement these priorities there is a need for both capacity and will.
Many journalists seriously contributed to highlight and prevent some environmental breaches. In this regard, I want to thank all ladies and gentlemen, from the media, who cooperated with me, personally, on dealing with number of environmental problems. Those journalists are respectively: Ms. Laure Sleiman, Manager of the National News Agency; Ms. Suzanne Baaklini from L’Orient Le Jour Daily; Ms. Suzanne Barbary and Mr. Toni Issa from Al-Diyar Daily; Mr. Salem Dakkak, Editing Manager of The Daily Star newspaper; Mr. Bassam Kantar from Al-Akhbar newspaper; Mr. Ghassan Hajjar, the Chief Editor of an-Nahar Daily; Mrs. Rita Chamoun from Voice of Lebanon radio station; Mr. Toni Mrad, Manager of Free Lebanon radio station, Mr. Toni Sleiman, Programs Manager as well as Mr. Fadi Nakouzi and Mr. Pierre Bayeh; Mr. Habib Abou Younes, Manager of sawt al-Mada radio station; Mr. George Ghanem; News and Political Programs Manager at LBC and Mr. Yazbeck Wehbi; Mr. George Yasmin from OTV; Mr. Dimitri Khodor; Manager of NTV and Mr. Bassel Aridi; Mr. Kassem Daghman from NBN; and many other reporters whose contributions were key to make the voice heard and halt environmental violations. I also want to thank his Excellency President Michel Sleiman for his patronage and his staff, namely Ambassador Mr. Nagi Abi Assi, General Manager of the Presidential Palace and Dr. Elie Assaf my economic adviser. In fact, thanks to their moral support, I was truly able to keep pace with my struggle for a better Lebanon. I also want to thank Public Works and Transport Minister His Excellancy Mr. Ghazi Aridi who was very responsive to my remarks regarding the halt of sea violations. Finally, I want to praise Interior Minister His Excellancy Mr. Ziad Baroud who accompanied me through a major part of my work, as well as Interior Security Forces Director General Mr. Ashrafi Rifi who showed true awareness of the necessity to stop current environmental destruction due to the violations of enforced laws. To conclude, I pay tribute to the sacrifices of the Ministry of Environment staff, my family and my colleagues at the “Régie Libanaise des Tabacs et Tombacs” Board and Ecole Supérieure des Affaires (ESA) University Principal Mr. Stephane Attali & finally to Ms. Aseel TAKSHEE (Post Doctorate program in Environmental Policies from Twentee University in Holland) who drafted the report in its actual form in English & to my sponsor FRANSABANK.
Ministry of Environment website
Council of Ministers website
National News Agency website
Catholic Media Council website
Takshe, A.A; Frantzi, S.; Lovett, J.C; and Huby, M. Dealing with pollution from conflict: Analysis of discourses around the 2006 Lebanon oil spill. Journal of Environmental Management, 91(4): 887-896.