Series of Baabda workshops aim to rein in spate of forest fires

  Series of Baabda workshops aim to rein in spate of forest fires

2 September 2009

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Lebanon — Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud launched a series of workshops Tuesday in the qada of Baabda aimed at preventing and fighting forest fires. Baroud met with Baabda mayors and mukhtars at the forest of the Saint Antonios Convent in Baabda. MPs Naji Gharios and Alain Aoun along with a number of environmental activists were also present.

The gathering discussed the increasing number of forest fires that occurred during the summer season, in addition to means to prevent similar incidents and measures to be taken to preserve Lebanon’s forests.

Baroud called for more cooperation between municipalities and ministries. “Lebanon’s real problem is that each one of us thinks he can solve the situation on his own,” he said.

He also stressed on the need to implement environment-friendly laws, while expressing regret that most ministers “don’t take into consideration that their work is linked to previous ministerial decisions and to future demands and challenges.”

During the gathering, Paul Abi Rashed, the president of NGO Earth Organization, put forward the idea of erecting an observation post that would spread an alarm in case of a forest fire. “Such a project would cost $25,000,” he said.

Baroud welcomed the idea but cautioned that the post wouldn’t be useful if the proper procedure wasn’t followed. “We need full cooperation between the civil society, the Civil Defense and the municipalities” he reiterated.

He also warned about another dangerous type of flame, saying “we need an observation post for political fires as well.” According to Baroud, ministries should take a broader view of the environmental situation and seek the implementation of forestation laws.

Baroud then briefed reporters and the audience about a draft law presented by the Interior Ministry to encourage planting trees. “When a person receives a building permit, motivational steps such as tax reductions would be taken in order for him to plant trees. This would also apply to factories according to a certain quota,” the minister explained.

The minister kept an optimistic outlook during Tuesday’s meeting saying: “Many green spaces were devoured by the flames but we can still reforest.” But he stressed that any long-term solutions started on the legislative level and demanded “on the field execution and a vital cooperation with municipalities and NGOs.”

The meeting also revealed a number of additional steps that were being taken toward fighting fires in Lebanon.

“Fighting forest fires needs public-awareness campaigns as well as helicopters equipped with specialized personnel,” said Adnan Malki, the representative for the UN Development Program (UNDP) Local Initiative for Civilized Environment.

The UNDP project includes 32 environmental development subprojects.

The Swiss Embassy also pledged to help prevent forest fires through an association deal between Lebanon and Switzerland. “The agreement aims at limiting natural disasters, guaranteeing a healthy environment for future generations and limiting the negative effects of global warming,” said Swiss Embassy representative Ivan Foirambon.

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