Putting out fires: Spain renews its cooperation agreement

Putting out fires: Spain renews its cooperation agreement

02 July 2011

published by www.dailystar.com.lb

Lebanon / Spain — Lebanon should continue to implement the agreement for fire control and prevention in cooperation with the Spanish government, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Thursday.

“We hope that this cooperation continues well into the future because it is an important matter for the country, which suffers from forest fires from its north to the south, threatening its green resources,” said Charbel.

In a ceremony late Thursday, Charbel and Spain’s state minister for international cooperation, Soraya Rodriguez Ramos, kicked off the third phase of a joint project to combat forest fires across the country.

The project is aimed to boost Lebanon’s technical and institutional capabilities in confronting and preventing forest fires. Although the Civil Defense Forces have been working to fight fires in the country, the lack of equipment for extinguishing large-scale forest fires is threatening Lebanon’s environment.

“Implementation of this protocol agreement is a national need, after witnessing the waves of raging forest fires in the past few years,” Charbel said.

Following an unprecedented heat wave in December of last year, fires broke out throughout the country, prompting government officials to convene an emergency meeting.

The third phase of the project will provide training and financing for Civil Defense personnel and will receive at least $200,000 in funding from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Spanish Embassy spokesperson Myriam Khoueiry said Friday.

She told the Daily Star that a joint operation room would be established to exchange information and expertise between the Lebanese and Spanish teams involved in the “control and intervention” of forest fires.

“This is a comprehensive project that will support the Lebanese team not only financially, but through active training sessions for members of Civil Defense and by providing equipment that will ready them to effectively extinguish the fires,” Khoueiry said.

She said the third phase of the project will concentrate mainly on protecting the area of Baalbek-Hermel, which has been the most affected by the country’s annual fires.

Speaking during the ceremony, Ramos said Lebanon and Spain share the same ecological system that makes them prone to yearly forest fires.

“Both countries are part of the Mediterranean and their climate characteristics made forest fires a historical reality, which is now a threat, especially in the summer season,” said Ramos, adding that the rate and strength of those fires have significantly increased in the past few years.

“The pace of forest fires has significantly increased in recent years as a result of climate change and land use,” Ramos said.

According to Ramos, the Spanish government is committed to working to combating forest fires throughout the world and especially in the Mediterranean region.

“Through this project, the Spanish government aims to help preserve the forest resources in Lebanon by boosting their control capabilities against fires and managing the risks that result from them,” Ramos said.

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