BEKAA, Lebanon: Lebanese authorities resumed their eradication Tuesday of cannabis fields in the east of the country without incident, after the government promised to compensate farmers deprived of their livelihood.
A security force drawn from the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army began destroying cannabis plantations in Deir al-Ahmar and Yammouneh in Baalbek.
Yammouneh mayor Mohammad Sharif said the crackdown is proceeding “smoothly.”
“The farmers welcomed the [security operation] after the prime minister [Najib Mikati] promised to compensate them ... through development projects,” Sharif said.
Sharif, however, warned that Yammouneh residents and farmers would return to growing cannabis and blocking roads if no alternatives were provided.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel promised cannabis farmers last month that he would present their case before the Cabinet in order to defuse tensions after farmers clashed with security forces engaged in the eradication of cannabis fields.
There have been several incidents in which security forces have been targeted in the crackdown, which began in July. Two policemen and two soldiers were wounded in separate shootings in Yammouneh.
Commenting on the resumption of the crackdown, several Beirut dailies said Tuesday that Lebanon’s cannabis farmers had already reaped their fields’ annual yield.
Around 35,000 dunams in the northern Bekaa are believed to be used for the cultivation of cannabis, which has long flourished in the fertile valley.
The total area of cannabis fields eradicated in the Bekaa and elsewhere in last month’s operation reached 6,615 dunams, according to the Internal Security Forces. The government called off its crackdown after farmers blocked roads and fired at security forces attempting to destroy the crops.
For the first time since 1992 – when the government began destroying the plant – nearly all of the country’s crop of cannabis will be eliminated.