By Mohammed Zaatari
Monday, January 17, 2011

Minister wants Sidon dump turned into garden

SIDON: Caretaker Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal called Sunday for Sidon’s toxic waste dump to be turned into a garden complex.

Speaking at an environmental fair held to draw attention to the country’s various ecological challenges, Rahhal expressed his wish to convert the dump, considered an ongoing health and ecological catastrophe, into a green space. However, he warned that such a project had fallen victim to political bickering in the country and was under threat from the general political divisions.

“The initiative [for transforming the land] has been targeted by a campaign of continuous obstruction which was not only aimed at a person or a party but against the whole country,” Rahhal said in a statement.

His criticism was backed by former Education Minister and Sidon M.P. Bahia Hariri, who also stressed that the much-needed establishment of a separation plant to absorb the city’s waste required a functioning Cabinet.

Despite the current stalemate, however, Rahhal announced plans to build a private park next to the Al-Amri Mosque in Sidon.

The park will be funded by the Hariri Institution for Sustainable Human Development, he said. “It is the first time that the Environment Ministry will adopt private park projects and work on forestation policies.”

Although the forestation project had existed in the ministry for several years, Rahhal said that the L.L.25 billion allocated to the institution before the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri would now be used to create the space. The rest of the money will go to establishing 10 new parks in several cities and to planting trees across an area of three million square meters throughout Lebanon.

An environmentally inspired exhibition entitled “Scouting and Environment are Homogenous,” was also unveiled at the event.

The exposition is considered the first of its kind in the city. It displayed work created by local scouts and students who collected garbage from individual households and turned it into decorative works or useful household objects.

“We would like to show everyone that through recycling and separating waste in the city, we can come up with new items that could actually be used at home as new reusable products,” said coordinator Mustafa Habli.

The exhibition, which was backed by several national politicians, also expressed the need to use more “green energy” in Lebanon and concentrated on how to limit the ongoing deforestation through several initiatives.

“Our lifetime behaviors must change,” said Hariri. “Students should not only protect the environment surrounding their houses, but everywhere [they go] in the country.”

Stressing the vital importance of using Lebanon’s education system to address environmental challenges in the classrooms, Hariri explained that the development of environmentalism in the future generations had to be used as a paramount tactic to counter deforestation and other environmental challenges.

“I think the sense [of environmental responsibility] has already started to develop among the students as they have already kicked off initiatives with solutions through recycling and community work measures in Lebanon,” she said.