Monday, October 25, 2010

BEIRUT: A biosphere reserve was inaugurated in Jabal Musa, Kesrouan, over the weekend as part of a program to promote ecotourism and to preserve biodiversity in the area.

The Jabal Musa biosphere reserve was set up by the Association of the Protection of Jabal Musa with the cooperation of the Italian Embassy through its Development Cooperation agency.

The reserve covers an area of 6,500 hectares at an altitude ranging between 350 meters at the village of Fitri, Jbeil, and 1,700 meters in the east at Bhassis and Shouabi hamlets, while it extends 500 meters beyond Nahr Ibrahim to the north and Nahr Dahab to the south.

Two hikes were organized in Jabal Musa in a bid to celebrate the new reserve. A comparatively short 90-minute hike had the village of Ehmez as a starting point and it ended at the village of Mshati, whereas the second, four-hour trek, opted for a longer path, and was led by Maxime Chaya, Lebanon’s veteran of climbing Mount Everest.

A large number of Lebanese and foreigners turned out to take part in the hikes and were joined by Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud, former Baabda MP Salah Honein, British Ambassador Frances Guy, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verkammen as well as Fabio Melloni, the director of the Italian Development Cooperation agency.

“It is of great importance that Lebanese get acquainted with all the [nation’s] natural treasures … and know how to preserve such treasures for coming generations,” said Chaya after his hike, and before the participants gathered for an opening ceremony held in Mshati.

Pierre Doumit, the head of the Association of the Protection of Jabal Musa, expressed his gratitude to the Italian Embassy, which was instrumental in seeing the Jabal Musa project come to fruition. “The more the people discover the beauty of this precious mountain, the more they will care about it and protect it,” Doumit said.

Jabal Musa was nominated last year as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO due to its unspoiled, historic Adonis Valley, with its ancient agricultural terraces and trails dating back to Roman times.

While the valley features rivers and streams, rangelands mixed with oak forests, pine and olive groves as well as other unique plant species, it also shelters undisturbed wildlife habitats that are home to wolves, hyenas, hyraxes, birds and reptiles. In the last five years, UNESCO has also classified the Chouf Cedars and Rihan mountains in the district of Jezzine as biosphere reserves.