BEIRUT: A reforestation project will be launched next month with a goal of planting 40 million trees across Lebanon, Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb announced Monday.

“A 40 million tree-project will be launched next month in the governmental palace during the national conference to celebrate Tree Day,” Chehayeb said after meeting with the administrative committee of the project, called “Forestation and Reforestation of Lebanon.”

The committee was appointed by the Cabinet, and is headed by Chehayeb. It includes representatives of the government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

They met to set out a road map for the project before its December 10 launch.

Chehayeb underlined the decline in Lebanon’s green cover from 13 to 11 percent in recent years, “despite the forestation projects that haven’t stopped.”

The minister explained that this regression is due to the aggressive tree-cutting targeting Lebanon’s forests.

“Despite referring numerous people who we can call ‘forest criminals’ to the Lebanese judiciary, the same crimes are being repeated after certain time has passed,” Chehayeb said.

Chehayeb stressed that the project is the biggest in Lebanon, but said it had not yet received the necessary financial support.

“The major part of the funds is not available yet, but the international organizations and donor states are ready to add funds to the Lebanese state’s budget and that of the Agriculture minister to ensure the necessary funding for this project,” he added.

Chehayeb explained that the ministry has had a yearly tradition of distributing plants and seeds to municipalities, schools and universities, but a large part of them are wasted.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t any annual follow up on what has been planted, and so we are losing a huge quantity of what we plant and what we distribute,” he said, highlighting that only 20 percent of the seeds or plants grow to be part of the forests.

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