Lebanon's Environment Inaction May Affect Entire Region

lebanon environmentRunning for green issues in Beirut: but will the government listen?

The year 2009 was bleak for Lebanon’s environmental track record, according to the country’s Daily Star.

Despite the impressive action of IndyACT, Lebanon’s delegation brought little effect at December’s COP 15 climate change summit; they were not able to accomplish much of anything insofar as solving the many serious environmental issues that now plague the country.

These issues include ones like serious forest fires, the destruction of Lebanon’s remaining cedar groves and forests, some of which date back to biblical times; and serious damage to Lebanon’s coastline due to pollution and eroding beaches which could become worse if a planned Dubai-type island project is undertaken Pollution to the country’s fresh water supplies. This adds to the already seriously polluted coastline was noted recently in our article dealing with a huge garbage dump near the city of Sidon, that can be “smelled before you see it” according to local fishermen.

The Daily Star article notes that although lawmakers met last May in order to establish “environmental police, courts, a prosecutor’s office … and trained environmental prosecutors,” little has been done concerning these as the country now enters 2010.

An example of inaction concerning combating forest fires, deals with the purchase of three helicopters to be used to combat frequent blazes, but that no qualified pilots are available to fly them. These fires threaten the country’s cedar trees, Lebanon’s national symbol, that are mentioned in the Bible and were said to have been used in the construction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Lebanon’s coastal environmental problem is also due to oil spills that occurred during the 2006 war, when Israeli war planes and naval vessels bombed Beirut’s Jeyyeh oil-powered station that resulted in an oil spill that threatened the country’s entire coast line with more than 15,000 tons of fuel “pouring into the Mediterranean.” Many environmentalists wondered why Lebanon didn’t have any back up plan to contain emergency and accidental spills.

Although Israel has been ordered by the UN to compensate Lebanon for this environmental damage, the Lebanese government itself seems incapable of doing much to deal with these many environmental problems. It seems that more is being done by environmental activists, including a group of young men who ran scantily clad through the streets of Beirut to draw attention to their country’s environmental problems.

It might be noted, however, that due to extensive environmental and property damage inflicted on northern Israel by more than 4,000 Hezbollah launched rockets during the 34 day war, it’s not likely that the Israeli government will be very receptive towards paying much or any compensation.

Some light may be seen at the end of Lebanon’s “environmental tunnel,” however, as more attention is being given to the use of  alternative energy for generating power. The country’s Environment Minister, Mohammad Rahal, said that Lebanon should be getting at least 12% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2012. But that amount is not a lot for a country that still suffers greatly from energy shortages and power cuts.

Receiving assistance from other Arab countries is not likely as it was noted that delegates from Arab countries attending the summit in Copenhagen were not able to agree on any major issues.  “Arab countries are so divided and there is not one [single] position that could be taken. The Gulf countries had their own agenda and they pursued it. Other countries could have done better had there been a common position,” said Nadim Farajalla, Associate Professor of Water Resources at American University Beirut.

Photo via The Daily Star.

::The Daily Star

More on Lebanese environmental issues:
Lebanon’s Garbage Dump More Serious Than Just the Smell
UNESCO Conference in Lebanon Stresses Media’s Role in Climate Change
Is Dubai Style “Disneyland” Coming to Lebanon?

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14 thoughts on “Lebanon's Environment Inaction May Affect Entire Region”

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