Country’s parks, green spaces get plugged in

The Greenation map plots the country’s parks and other green spaces for people to explore.

BEIRUT: Plugging the country’s people-friendly green spaces into an interactive map and mobile application may provide the boost Lebanese need to live healthier outdoor-oriented lives, environmentalists said Tuesday.

Environmentalist groups launched a new campaign with the Environment Ministry to help people connect and share experiences through outdoor recreation. Called Greenation, the initiative involves a map and social networking application that allow users to easily find green spaces and attract more people to them.

The map and application are particularly targeted at cities, including Beirut, where green areas are few and far between. Environmentalists hope the campaign helps create a greater appreciation for existing parks and protect them from disappearing entirely.

“I wouldn’t want my children to know Sioufi park or Sanayeh park through pictures and stories, I want them to play there and connect with nature,” said Pierre Daher, who oversaw the project.

The country struggles with trash and waste disposal problems. Some companies can dispose of chemical waste into rivers with impunity; little infrastructure exists for recycling; and trash is piled high around large swaths of coastal areas. Many green spaces that did exist were developed into high rises and even more will be.

On the Greenation map’s parks and public gardens are indicated with a small marker that reveals their features and opening hours when clicked. After a user finds a green site and visits, they can share photos, experiences and reviews on the mobile application.

The idea is to associate going outside with the positive feedback online connections can provide. Organizers hope when people see their friends posting about an outdoor experience they will be encouraged to try one as well.

Beyond protecting the outdoor spaces, the organizers hope by going outside people will take advantage of a number of health benefits. Outdoor exposure reduces stress in children, decreases symptoms of attention deficit disorder and fights obesity, said Sanaa Tawileh from Greenation.

Tawileh said she hoped the project would be a starting point for a society more engaged with the environment and caring for its natural resources.

The fate of the city’s largest protected green space, Horsh Beirut, caused a stir at the Greenation launch. After the conference, audience members debated why they weren’t allowed to have access to one of the most unique outdoor spaces.

Greenation is also involved in a program to register green businesses on its interactive map to help connect them with like-minded consumers. The project charges a yearly fee to promote the business after vetting their environmental credentials.

A variety of NGOs work in Lebanon to improve environmental practices and have had mixed results. But Tawileh hopes for more progress. She’s spearheading legislation that would give children access to more green spaces

“We have to create more than this, we want to go green and beyond,” Tawileh said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 10, 2012, on page 2.




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