Land of The Cedars: Slipping into Deforestation?

Lebanese Flag

The symbol of a country is usually what forges its identity and sets it aside from the others.

Placed at the centre of the Lebanese flag, the cedar portrays the green essence of this country or what’s left of it.

What used to be described as the green carpet covering the mountains of Lebanon has sadly become a memory that number of NGOs alongside the government and the community are fighting to preserve and rejuvenate.

We always link negative environmental behaviour to the modern ages making the destruction of nature a new phenomenon brought on by industrialisation and modern technology. When in fact the depletion of natural resources goes far back to when humans discovered fire some half-a-million years ago. Cutting down trees was a vital activity for shelter, food and warmth. Wood being the guarantee for survival, the concept of deforestation came to life, transforming from a survival tool in the ancient times to an increasing threat today.

 

The cedars of Lebanon (cedrus libani) called cedars of God in Arabic, developed across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the scope of the forests started to decrease due to the intensive exploitation of timber by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Phoenicians and Egyptians.

Inhabiting the Lebanese shores, the Phoenicians were using cedar wood to build their ships for trading purposes and the Ottoman Empire used it in railway construction.

 

Agreeing on the fact that deforestation is not a recent phenomenon in Lebanon, doesn’t make it a problem of the past. In the old days, more than 50% of the land was covered with forests. Today, only 13% of forested area remain while only 4% represent the dense concentrated forests.

 

When will the Lebanese government start reconsidering its list of priorities that always places environmental problems at the bottom?

Some problems cannot afford to be postponed, making their impact irreversible.

Forest on Fire

Forest fires, among other natural and human threats, are a major player in this decrease, continuing to be one of the most dangerous, especially when the government is not properly equipped to encounter these ravaging fires. Acres of forests are destroyed yearly in a blink of an eye.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture 9.6 million trees (1200 hectares) of natural forests are burned annually.

129 fires were registered in 2004 resulting in 585 hectares of burned forest areas and 117 fires in 2005 spread in different regions.

The most impactful fires took place in 2007 known as the black day for the environment in Lebanon where 12 million trees of different cover types burned in one day.

As a result of this ongoing environmental tragedy, mystery persists behind the reasons of these fires; and whether they were intentional (for political reasons) or natural.

Looking for the source of these devastating fires is the only way to prevent them, especially when the effect of the forests that have been burned down twice within a period of 10 to 15 years cannot be restored naturally, and therefore their reforestation would cost millions of dollars.

The World Bank, estimates 100 million USD/year as the financial damage of the deterioration of the land and wildlife.

Deforestation can be prevented if governmental control is well exercised along with a law enforcement regulating the development of agricultural areas at the expense of forests as well as the creation of a national campaign for public awareness when it comes to biodiversity conservation.

Cedar Tree

The danger of desertification is becoming more of an actual fact than a probability. The civil society is mobilised to protect the forests through the creation of natural reserves. As a result of this effort “Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve” has an area of 550 km2 that hosts 32 species of wild mammals, 200 species of birds and 500 species of plants and additional reserves are being created all over the country for the preservation of the Cedars of God added to the UNESCO list of world Heritage Sites in 1998.

 

Globalisation puts all of us in the same boat especially when it comes to environmental problems. While some countries are using the right tools, others don’t even feel the urgency to own these tools.

 
Sources:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/?search=lebanon&searchSites=&search_by_country=&region=&search_yearinscribed=&themes=&criteria_restrication=&type=&media=&order=country&description

 

http://www.moe.gov.lb/Projects.aspx

 

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/lebanon_cedar.htm

 

http://www.wildlebanon.org/en/pages/advanced/a_lebanons_biodiversity.pdf

 


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