Daily Star Editorial

The environmental challenges facing Lebanon today are no joke. Studies have been issued, figures have been produced, warnings have been sounded, and politicians can always find the opportunity to make speeches in which they praise the environment and call for its protection – and do little to actually fix the situation.

To single out politicians for blame is largely unfair, however. There are dozens of NGOs in Lebanon that focus on environment-related issues, but something isn’t right. Instead of uniting to force the authorities to take serious action, civil society activists usually end up holding conferences, conducting training programs, and launching awareness campaigns.

Awareness is a positive development, but NGOs should also take a long look at themselves – what do they spend their funding on? Is the impact that results from their efforts measurable? Is it satisfactory?

Once again, it isn’t a case of nothing being done. But the efforts to help preserve Lebanon’s environment are the equivalent of throwing buckets of water at a raging forest fire.

Speaking of fires, the country lacks a hard-hitting plan to nip this problem in the bud. The devastation caused by forest fires in Lebanon, year in and year out, is robbing the countryside of its desperately needed green cover. Quarries are another obvious area of concern, and the environmental degradation they generate is visible to anyone who takes a drive outside the capital. Sadly, one doesn’t even have to drive very far to witness such tragedies.

Meanwhile, the brownish-black cloud of haze and pollution that sits over Greater Beirut during the summer months is also no secret. When people hear that irrigation water for crops is sometimes full of sewage, the Lebanese seem to accept it as a depressing fact of life.

In the cities, the devotion to the concrete jungle of development takes precedence over any attempt to create islands of green. Everyone, in the figurative sense, is talking about global warming and the possible ramifications for a Mediterranean country that depends on tourism, but little to nothing is being done.

The environment isn’t a luxury item, or a “development” issue in which politics plays no role. It’s the basis for keeping people in the country, and encouraging tourists to visit and spend their money here.

To respond to a crisis, the government can go into emergency mode, but the response by officials cannot remain an ad hoc, piecemeal affair. What Lebanon needs are real measures, with a long lifespan, and no exceptions for those enjoying political cover.

Politicians are fond of issuing calls for accountability, but the process is meaningless unless it’s applied across the board. The country’s environment is just as “political,” and potentially deadly, as any other issue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 29, 2011, on page 7.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Editorial/2011/Jul-29/A-political-haze.ashx#ixzz1Tn0rDg3o
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)