NNA – The USAID-funded Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI) organized on Saturday an “Environmental Day” at ArzEhmej Park in Ehmej, Byblos to celebrate the “International Earth Day” under the patronage of Ehmej Municipality and in cooperation with the committees of the Social and Enviroment corridors in the North, Rachayya and Al-Shouf in the presence of Environment Minister Representative Paul Moussa, US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, MP Simon ABi Ramia, Ehmej Municipality head and Council members and dignitaries.
Richard made a speech in which she stressed her cabinet’s commitment to preserve the environment in Lebanon.
She said ,”We are present here today because we share a strong belief in preserving Lebanon’s forests and natural beauty. It is truly impressive to see youth from diverse backgrounds coming together with such passion and enthusiasm to plant trees and restore Lebanon’s green landscapes and iconic cedar forests.”
She added “Every day, deforestation is happening at an alarming rate and is reducing the quality of life for everyone in this beautiful country. Degradation of forests is affecting Lebanon’s land, the livelihoods of its people, and its biodiversity.”
Richard expressed sorrow that “forest cover has declined in this country by 17 percent over the past 50 years. Cedars, pines, and other trees are now increasingly at risk because of water scarcity, burgeoning urbanization, and wildfire threats. Clearly, the loss of these forests is posing serious economic and ecological threats.”
She added “the alarming decline in Lebanon’s forest cover has encouraged the U.S. government to join with Lebanese partners to promote reforestation and build capacity in local communities, organizations, and municipalities to prevent forest fires and protect lives. This is why in 2004, we joined forces with our Lebanese partners and the United States Forest Service to embark upon a nationwide campaign to combat wildfires in Lebanon. In 2010, we increased our support by launching the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI) aimed at promoting reforestation and preventing wildfires.”
Richard said ,”through LRI, we collaborate with civil society, communities, youth groups, and municipalities to accelerate the pace and scale of reforestation. We have assisted in planting and are sustaining more than 600,000 native tree seedlings throughout Lebanon, with an average survival rate of 75-80 percent. To date, we have helped to create 1,200 seasonal jobs for men and women in rural areas. Working together, we also brought diverse communities together by creating three social and environmental corridors in Rachaiya, North, and Shouf to share best practices in reforestation, promote inter-sectarian dialogue, and foster understanding between Lebanese and refugee populations.”
She said “thanks to the LRI project’s participatory approach to reforestation, we proudly support more than 40 communities working to adopt sustainable forestry practices and wildfire management and helping them to advocate for their environmental needs. We engage hundreds of youth each year in awareness and tree planting activities to empower them to take positive actions to protect Lebanon’s environment.”
“Furthermore, we helped instill a national commitment to reforestation and forest conservation by leading other donors and the national government to commit to forest conservation by adopting best practices from around the world. Every year, thousands of Lebanese are rallying to build a greener future for Lebanon. This is a testament that the environment is a unifying factor that can bridge the gap among diverse communities and lead to transformative changes in environmental practices,” Richard said.
“Today, our commitment to promote Lebanon’s environmental diversity is growing stronger,” she stressed.
Richard praised all volunteers by saying, ” I salute your dedication and engagement to revive Lebanon’s natural beauty and the cedar tree in particular. Your commitment to protect Lebanon’s environment and communities is more than just the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do.”
“I want to commend the efforts of LRI, local communities, and environmental committees throughout Lebanon for being strong advocates for Lebanon’s environmental issues, for broadening environmental awareness, and for partnering with us to create greener landscapes.
I also want to extend my sincere thanks to the Ministry of Environment for supporting our efforts to promote Lebanon’s rich environmental diversity.”
” Thanks to everyone for being here today. And thanks to all of you for your great work to restore the great forests which have symbolized this land for thousands of years.”
“I look forward to increased participation in initiatives like today to ensure sustainable reforestation in the future. There is a common saying that “prevention is better than cure.” So let’s work together to save these trees so that future generations of Lebanese can enjoy this country’s natural beauty as we do today,” she concluded.