Development - at What Price? A Review of the Lebanese Authorities' Management of the Environment

Article excerpt

Throughout the 1990s we have seen rebuilding activities in Lebanon. The physical remnants of the war, particularly in the greater Beirut area, have been removed and replaced. Much of the media reporting on Lebanon has centered around this rebuilding, the "rebirth of the Phoenix." Although rebuilding the country is important, such efforts must be examined in their full context, including their impact on the environment and on the people it supports. How are the efforts by the Lebanese authorities at land management and infrastructure development affecting the very land of Lebanon? This question, often disregarded by the Lebanese government and agencies, is the central theme of this article.

Governmental responsibilities for the management of Lebanon's environment encompass wide aspects: wastewater, pollution, land use and coastal zone management, forests and agriculture, solid and hazardous waste, cultural heritage, industrial pollution, and water resources. These responsibilities are shared among nine ministries and eight key institutions: the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Tourism, Housing, Hydraulic and Electrical Resources, Public Health, Urban Affairs, Public Works, and Industry and Petroleum; and the Urban Planning Institution, Municipalities, Mohafaza, Caza, Council of Development and Reconstruction, Roads and Planning Institution, Council of Grand Projects, and Department of Antiquities (METAP, 1995). Lack of coordination among agencies hampered effective environmental management.

Numerous laws and decrees were issued by the Lebanese authorities, including the Ministries of Agriculture, Interior, Environment, and Hydraulic and Electrical Resources (Table 1). The problem was not so much with the laws per se as with the enforcement of the laws. Most laws were not implemented due to financial constraints, lack of effective institutional capacity, internal corruption and inter-agency strife, shortage of technical expertise in the private and public sector, and/or, occasionally, public opposition. Lack of coordination was rampant between (and among) these organizations, and further served to render enforcement, monitoring, and any productive kind of environmental management weak, at best.

[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED]

In certain measures aimed at protecting the environment, the Lebanese authorities have been relatively successful. The Ministry of Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, increased environmental programs throughout the public schools. The Lebanese authorities have also begun an awareness campaign for solid waste management, as part of the solid waste management program for Beirut. In addition, based on anecdotal evidence, the hunting ban, extending from 1995 until 2000, has resulted in greater protection of birds and animals, and has probably saved certain species from local extinction. Of all their efforts at positive reform, the conservation of certain important natural sites was most famous.

MEASURES AIMED AT CONSERVING NATURAL HERITAGE AREAS

Currently, less than 0.5 percent of Lebanon's total area is protected (Dean, 1994). Several laws and decrees were drained and passed that aim to protect certain endangered, or high biologically diverse habitats (Table 2). Ihdin Forest, the most floristically rich area in Lebanon, and Palm Islands, the three islands off the coast of Tripoli that serve as prime areas for migratory birds, were declared protected areas in 1992. It took four years for the enforcement of the protective measures to begin.

Table 2. Biodiversity In-Situ Conservation - Protected Areas

Organization              Target                            Year

Ministry of Agriculture   Fir forest of Qammouaa            1996
Ministry of               Karm Shbat                        1995
Environment
Ministry of Agriculture   Reserve of Khurbet Sleem          1992
Ministry of Agriculture   Reserve of Kfar Zabad             1992
Ministry of Agriculture   Reserve of Hbaleen                1992
Ministry of Agriculture   Palm Islands, Ihdin Forest,       1991-
                          Jabal al-Barouk                   1992
Ministry of Agriculture   Nature Reserve of Saissouk        1991
National Council for      Batroun maritime reserve          1991
Scientific Research
Ministry of Agriculture   Arz Bsharri                       1939
Ministry of Agriculture   Valley of Qannoubeen              1939
Ministry of Agriculture   Reserve, region of Bass in Tyre   1933

In 1996 the Lebanese government signed the UN proposal for Protected Areas for Sustainable Development in Lebanon, thus declaring Ihdin Forest, Barouk Mountain, and Palm Islands to be nationally protected areas. …