By Antoine Amrieh
The Daily Star

BATROUN, Lebanon: Environment Minister Nazim Khoury urged the government and municipalities to join efforts to find the best measures for waste management in the country, which currently has more than 680 waste dumps.

Khoury’s made his comments during a tour of the northern district of Batroun Friday, during which he visited several sites that are facing environmental challenges.

“There should be cooperation between the ministry, municipalities and local committees to find the best solutions to solving the waste problem,” said Khoury, adding that his ministry was fully committed tackling the problem.

During a stop on the Batroun-Tannourine highway, Khoury told reporters that the government was mulling the possibility of making use of Lebanon’s waste dumps for energy production.

“There are suggestions these days to connect waste at the dumps with energy production,” Khoury said.

Accompanied by an official delegation and the two MPs representing the qada, Antoine Zahra and former Labor Minister Butros Harb, Khoury visited an area on the outskirts of the Batroun village of Abrin where a natural reserve will be established.

Khoury praised the project to develop the natural reserve and said the ministry would do its best to support it.

Khoury also said that engineers supervising road works should adopt eco-friendly policies that would preserve green spaces on roadsides.

From Abrin, the delegation headed to the Tannourine Cedar Forest Nature Reserve, one of the largest and best-preserved cedar forests in the country.

“This is the peak of Lebanon, the symbol of our country and its flag … and it is an honor for all Lebanese and their responsibility to protect it,” said Khoury, adding that the cedars are part of the country’s history and a guarantee of its continuity.

“Environmental sites have been subject to irreparable damage and I hope the local committees in Batroun and its MPs work to preserve the environmental and historical sites in the area,” said Khoury.

According to Khoury, the visit to Batroun was the beginning of greater cooperation on ongoing environmental projects in region.

For his part, Harb, a member of the March 14 coalition, said that unlike divisive political issues, environmental issues should unite all politicians.

“We might not agree on politics with ministers in the government, but environmental problems should unite us,” Harb added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 15, 2011, on page 3.

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