MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: A reforestation campaign was launched Sunday by the Army, the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon and a local civil society group, in order to promote environmental health in the southern district of Marjayoun.Jouzour Loubnan, a non-governmental organization that seeks to restore woodlands and promote sustainable forestation in the country’s arid regions, spearheaded the campaign with cooperation from the municipality, the Army and Spanish and French UNIFIL contingents.
Present during the opening ceremony were French Ambassador Patrice Paoli, Spanish Ambassador Milagros Hernando, the commander of UNIFIL’s eastern sector, Gen. Alonzo Banos, and the mayor of Ibl al-Saqi, Georges Rahal.
“In the last 40 years, we’ve lost 40 percent of our green surface,” said Jouzour Loubnan Vice President Magda Kharrat, “This is why we, at Jouzour Loubnan, are contributing to reforestation in Lebanon and raising awareness about the threats of desertification, in order to help local communities protect their natural resources and benefit from their environmental surroundings.”
Kharrat announced the goal of the campaign in Ibl al-Saqi would be to plant 6,000 trees within 850,000 square meters of municipal land.
“Today, the efforts of UNIFIL soldiers, from the French and Spanish contingents, together with the LAF and Jouzour Loubnan, are an example of the cooperation that exists between civilians and the military. This is an activity that demonstrates our commitment toward maintaining stability and development in the south, and [our commitment to] promoting trust and strengthening ties with Lebanon,” Banos said.
“France reaffirms its continuous support to ecological projects and sustainable development in Lebanon. The cedar tree is the symbol of peace and it is also the symbol of Lebanon and what better symbol [of] our soldiers’ support,” Paoli said.
“Spain is very much involved in Lebanon and we assert our continuous cooperation with the Lebanese community. We put our hands with yours, the municipality and Jouzour Loubnan to enhance the lifestyle of Lebanese society through our support to their environment, a major pillar in the country,” Hernando said.
Touching on political issues, she stressed that the “EU supports holding the Lebanese parliamentary elections on time; however the Lebanese people should decide what suits them. The Lebanese officials must exert more efforts despite the complicated circumstances in the region.”
“The Lebanese political parties and the society should work to maintain calm and stay away from issues that could potentially destabilize the country,” she added.
The ceremony concluded with the planting of six trees by the officials and the ambassadors, along with representatives from Jouzour Loubnan.
The group has planted more than 115,000 trees in nine different regions of Lebanon including Ehmaj, Kfar Zebian, Shabrouh, Tarshish, Ehden, Btedaai and Ainata, according to their statement.
The country’s forests have been gradually diminishing over the years, as forests occupy just 13 percent of land today, compared to 30 percent in 1980.
Experts told The Daily Star last year that at one point forest fires occurred in the same area only once every 30 years, but now they often strike twice within a 15 year time frame, a frequency which deprives the land the ability to regenerate naturally.