BEIRUT: After last year’s devastating fires, which destroyed huge swathes of forest across Lebanon, the Association for Forest Development and Conservation (AFDC) announced Thursday the launch of a new program to fight, study and prevent forest fires.
The “Towards a Sustainable Mechanism for Forest Fire Fighting” program was funded by the European Community Life group and implemented in cooperation with Green Line Association.
Akram Chehayeb, head of the AFDC and the environmental parliamentary committee, said: “We have developed a forest fire fighting program and recommended the establishment of a governmental institution to be in charge of it.”
He added: “Former Premier Omar Karami’s government refused the proposal. We hope the next government will develop a national plan to fight forest fires and establish such an institution even though this year’s forest fires season has already begun.”
Munir Bu Ghanem, AFDC’s program officer said: “Usually, people realize the threat of forest fires only during the fire season without thinking of the real causes behind their occurrence.”
Ghanem added: “AFDC hopes the program will teach people about the direct and indirect causes of forest fires and how to avoid them.”
Ghanem said the program also aims to raise public awareness on how to prevent and fight forest fires. The campaign includes a three-minute video clip about forest fires by singer Youri Mrakadi.
The campaign also includes billboards, posters and brochures, and a documentary about forest fires in Lebanon.
Forest fires are often caused by the burning of agricultural waste on abandoned land during the summer, but are also caused by overgrazing or accidents resulting from careless or negligent behavior.
The recent increased in the number and severity of Lebanon’s forest fires has lead to biodiversity loss, water scarcity and soil erosion. They also have a negative effect on the country’s economy and can effect the climate.
Ghanem said forest fires could be prevented by outlawing any and all fires in wooded areas between the months of June and October, and by not littering the forests, in addition to respecting forest conservation laws.
He further encouraged anyone who witnesses a forest fire this summer to call the Civil Defense’s toll-free number, 125.