BEIRUT: Environment Minister Nazim Khoury Sunday attended the launch, in Jbeil, of a Lebanon Green Again campaign to increase greenery across the country.

The non-governmental organization kicked off their latest program, the “National campaign to increase green space in Lebanon 2012” at the International Sculpture Center in the village of Amsheet, followed by the dispersal of seeds by helicopter, overseen by the Lebanese Army.

Speaking at the ceremony, Khoury said the environment should be a primary national issue and must be protected. “Lebanon’s environment is the country’s treasure and is a top priority,” said Khoury, who was representing President Michel Sleiman.

Khoury called on all citizens not to remain indifferent toward the environment around them. “Don’t let Lebanon lose its forests … don’t let ignorance kill the country’s trees, which have already been greatly harmed by wild fires.”

“I call on the government, schools, the civil society and NGOs to spread awareness throughout the country in order to safeguard forests,” he added.

Last month the Agriculture Ministry launched the first ever National Forest Program, which aims to gather experts and NGOs over the course of a year in order to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at protecting the country’s forests.

Lebanon remains one of the most forested countries in the region, but forest fires, mismanagement and wars have all played their part in the destruction of the country’s green spaces. Over the last few years, 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of forest have been lost annually due to forest fires across the country.

A 2004 study showed that forest coverage in the country had fallen to just 13 percent – in 1980 it stood at 30 percent. The Agriculture Ministry last year established a plan to increase this to 20 percent by 2020.

Lebanon Green Again have annually planted seeds, dropped by army helicopters and planes, in this manner since 2009. Last year the NGO covered 1 million square meters, in all regions of the country, and this year’s effort will see over 700,000 square meters covered.

Rabih Salem, secretary-general of the NGO, said the reforestation methods used are efficient and more effective than traditional planting methods.

“This method greatly helps in cutting down the spending of the state, which previously adopted traditional methods for reforestation,” said Salem.

Khoury also said that the Cabinet is soon set to discuss four draft laws presented by the Environment Ministry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2011, on page 3.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::