April 03, 2013

BEIRUT: Environmental issues should top the agenda of any future Cabinet, caretaker Environment Minister Nazem Khoury said Tuesday.

“Today more than ever, environmental issues should be a priority on the agenda of any future Cabinet, despite the tense political situation and economic uncertainties in the country,” Khoury said during a reception to mark the ministry’s activities over the past 20 years.

He added that the environment was a far-reaching issue, impacting the political, economic, social and cultural sectors. “At a time when we focus our efforts on resolving political issues and the electoral law, we forget sometimes that unless we rush to protect our ecosystems, we are going to lose the battle of preserving our quality of life,” Khoury said.

“In most sectors we can correct mistakes after they happen, but with respect to environmental issues, we have to deal with them before they happen, before it’s too late, because those who will suffer from the results are our children and grandchildren,” he said.

Khoury said there was reason to be optimistic because Lebanese were more aware about environmental issues and the political will to protect the environment existed.

“During these past 20 years, the ministry grew more capable and its administration, as well as financial and human resources improved,” Khoury said, adding that the ministry was no longer considered a minor one.

Over the past 20 years, he continued, the ministry had issued a number of laws aimed at securing a healthy environment through conservation efforts, managing air and water pollution, and recycling waste.

Notably, the ministry formed the National Council for the Environment, which includes representatives from all essential ministries, the private sector and civil society organizations, to share expertise and work together to manage national environmental issues.

Looking to the future, ministry priorities include reinforcing capabilities and facilitating the adoption of several legislations linked to organizing environmental issues. The ministry also seeks to coordinate efforts with other ministries.

As environmental deterioration affects Lebanon’s international image, impacting foreign investments and tourism, Khoury hopes to put politics in the service of the environment.

He also hopes to work to increase communication between citizens and spread awareness, especially among the young, to change environmentally harmful behaviors.

The challenges for the ministry are numerous, as the minister describes the loss of green areas as a major problem, a result of a lack of urban planning and the increasing number of illegal quarries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 03, 2013, on page 4.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2013/Apr-03/212363-minister-says-environment-should-top-cabinet-agenda.ashx#ixzz2PWuS6a4G
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)