Safeguarding Lebanon’s forests through fire prevention

Lebanon celebrates success in forest fire prevention with a 90% reduction in two years, but the country faces a new threat: deliberate fires burning southern regions.

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Photo: Leila Rossa Mouawad. Partners and concerned stakeholders in the national campaign for forest fire prevention 2024.

A few years back, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the risk of wildfires in the Mediterranean is expected to worsen due to longer heat waves and extreme drought episodes. In Lebanon, warmer and drier summers are already translating into longer fire seasons, with more frequent, intense, larger, and catastrophic wildfires. In fact, in summer 2023, the country witnessed unprecedented near-daily wildfires.

Photo: Leila Rossa Mouawad. Dr Maya Nehme, Director of Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, presenting the campaign in Bikfayya.

For the third consecutive year, the Lebanese Ministry of Environment and its partners launched the national campaign for forest fire prevention. This step comes in celebration of World Environment Day and as part of the country’s strategy for forest fire prevention. This annual campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of preventing forest fires through land management practices, responsible recreational activities, community preparedness, early detection, and coordination. The strategic vision of the ministry with the unmatched efforts of experts and volunteers have succeeded in significantly reducing forest fires by up to 90% in the past 2 years.

However, massive forested areas are being deliberately set on fire and scorched in southern Lebanon today. This environmental massacre has been ongoing since October 2023, as Israel continues to use white phosphorus munition and other immoral incendiary weapons to render the land uninhabitable, depriving the locals of basic ecosystem goods and services.

Photo: Leila Rossa Mouawad. Official partners of the campaign meeting with the Lebanese civil defense to listen to their concerns.

It is important to note that Lebanon’s civil defense still suffers from shortages in equipment, personnel and funding. Firefighters are mostly volunteers who do not receive any remuneration for the life-saving services that they offer. As such, the absence of dedicated funds for addressing fire risks has been hampering collective action. This challenge led the ministry of environment to develop a framework for a National Forest Fire Emergency Fund (NFFEF). The objective of the NFFEF is to provide financial support to efficiently manage and combat wildfires in Lebanon.

Other efforts aiming to prevent and efficiently respond to forest fires in Lebanon include the Fire Lab platform that forecasts wildfire risk, highlighting the most vulnerable areas and the Fire Patrol mobile application allowing users to report fire incidents and receive fire danger alerts, among many others. Similarly, The World Bank is currently preparing a 3.5 million USD project to prevent forest fires and establish a fund to support local communities and forest responders in better managing their forests.

Such concerted efforts are essential to maintain the environmental, cultural and socioeconomic benefits of Lebanon’s forests. These initiatives offer a glimpse of hope amid uncertain situations to safeguard the country’s richest asset from long-term deterioration.

VIALeila Rossa Mouawad
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Leila Rossa Mouawad
Leila Rossa Mouawad is a member of the Mediterranean Youth Task Force. She has a background in Forestry and currently works at the AUB Nature Conservation Center. Leila represented youth in multiple congresses and supported scientists in communicating their messages. Leila is also passionate about photography and takes shots that highlight the hidden beauty in nature.