BEIRUT: Mount Harissa in Kesrouan should be turned into a “natural reserve of the patriarchs,” activists and locals urged a rally in Jounieh Thursday.

“Mount Harissa is the lung through which Jounieh and its people breathe, and in the absence of this mountain, pollution will move into every home,” said Mayor Antoine Frem, addressing the crowd of students from the Maronite Order School who gathered at the municipality.

“Lebanon is passing through a critical [political] crisis. However every crisis has a solution, while the environmental dangers and deforestation are constantly attacking us,” Frem added.

Thursday’s rally was organized by students and faculty members at the school, which this year incorporated environmental issues and biodiversity into its academic curriculum.

During the rally, Father Wadih Saqim, the school’s president, emphasized the positive attitude in dealing with environmental challenges.

“The students realized that in the heart of this coastal city, we have a natural gift in the form of biodiversity.”

However, Saqim said it was vital to spread awareness among young people in order to protect the environment in Jounieh. “Your duty is difficult but not impossible … it is possible to turn the waste into industrial resources, and Mount Harissa into a natural reserve,” he added, addressing caretaker Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal.

Rahhal said he would work with the patriarch to make the two million square meter reserve project a reality.

He called for constant efforts to educate both young and old across the country about the need to show a commitment to the environment. “If we succeed in educating 500,000 students to be environmentally responsible citizens, then we will have a environmentally-friendly future generation.”