Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star

NABATIEH, Lebanon: A campaign to plant a million trees in south Lebanon, the “Tree for Every Citizen” project, was launched Monday by numerous associations under the patronage of Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb.

The Green without Borders, Amal Baladi and Generations for Peace organizations launched the project with a ceremony held at the Jaber Cultural Center in Nabatieh. The aim of the campaign is to make environmentalism a higher-profile issue among civil society groups, unions and municipalities.

“Let’s stand together to defend our land,” said Mustafa Badreddine, head of Amal Baladi.

During the event, which was attended by several officials including Hezbollah MPs Mohammad Raad and Hasan Fadlallah, Change and Reform bloc MP Ziad Aswad and Amal Movement MP Hani Kobeissi, Badreddine highlighted the importance of maintaining Lebanon’s land and natural resources.

“Let’s provide it [with what it needs] and prevent … negligence, violations and crimes that destroy, pollute and cause desertification before it’s too late.”

Badreddine revealed that 300,000 trees would be planted this year through the project.

The Agriculture Ministry, universities, schools, organizations and the media will all have a role to play in the campaign, he added.

“We are dependent on awareness campaigns and workshops to direct people toward the correct way of planting and irrigating, as well as techniques to prevent infringements and fires,” explained Badreddine, who spoke at the event after a documentary was shown about the campaign and its goals.

Badreddine also stressed that global warming posed a serious threat to mankind.

“[Global warming] can’t be faced except through agriculture, and this was the starting point of the project,” Badreddine told the Daily Star.

The project aims to increase forestation as the percentage of wooded areas in Lebanon has been decreasing drastically over the years due to overgrazing, negligence, forest fires and Israeli aggression.

“This project came after the percentage of forests in the south decreased to just 7 percent.”

The three organizations kicked off their work with the hope of raising awareness and changing mentalities in the south with regard to reforestation and to raise awareness about the negative implications of cutting down trees.

The campaign aims to plant a million trees over the next five years in areas across the south.

In addition, training workshops will be held for officials at the various municipalities.

“Planting one tree is a [kind of] medicine that will prevent numerous illnesses,” said Amal Abu Zeid, the chairman of the board of trustees of the Generations for Peace.

Chehayeb said he hoped the green spaces in Lebanon would once again cover 20 percent of the country through programs like a Tree for Every Citizen and the 40 Million Tree project, another recently revived reforestation campaign.

“Bless each hand that plants, bless each hand that protects [nature]. I express appreciation to all the activists,” he said.

Chehayeb also stressed that cooperation and collaboration among all Lebanese factions would shield the country from the turmoil gripping the region.

As part of his visit to the south, the minister met with Hezbollah lawmaker Mohammad Raad, and the two officials held a meeting in the presence of some officials from Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party.

They then paid a visit, along with engineers from the ministry, to municipality’s Al-Sayedah al-Maasouma garden, where Chehayeb panted a tree.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 25, 2014, on page 4.

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