BEIRUT: Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb said Thursday that he would allocate some $330,000 to clean forests most vulnerable to fires after the country saw one of its worst fires earlier this year.
“I will assign LL500 million ($330,000) from the ministry’s budget to clean forests most susceptible to fires and trim them in coordination with the municipalities and civil organizations,” Chehayeb said during his meeting with a delegation from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Earlier this year, a huge fire engulfed swathes of forest in Baabda, raging for hours and destroying an estimated 300,000-500,000 square meters of forest in Wadi Shahrur, including the Khandak al-Ruhban reserve.
The incident raised questions regarding Lebanon’s readiness to respond to and combat such fires.
Chehayeb and the FAO discussed the dangers of increasing forest fires, which the minister said were due to drought and overpopulation in light of the overwhelming number of Syrian refugees, especially in areas near forests.
The delegation reviewed with the minister a draft of a road map concerning the issue that required $3.3 million funding.
Chehayeb asked the ministry to plan an emergency strategy to take precautionary measures and limit fires.
Meanwhile, Chehayeb also met with a delegation from the ministry’s compensation fund for farmers, who asked the minister to increase the budget by LL3 billion a year.