A successful bid for this second edition of EU Green Day, which was organised at the Beirut Hippodrome by the European Union (EU) in partnership with several NGOs working to protect and defend the environment in Lebanon.
“We want to create an ecological awareness off the back of an entertaining and enjoyable event. The idea is to enable the public to form ideas for personal initiatives to protect the environment,” says Christina Lassen, ambassador and head of the EU delegation in Lebanon. “The second point we wanted to emphasise is the promotion of green public spaces in Lebanese cities, which are really very rare. Hence our choice of the racetrack, which is a little known green space, even in Beirut,” she adds.
In order to attract the greatest number of people, “we used schools and NGOs to invite children and students to introduce them to environmental issues from an early age,” says Mrs Lassen. Indeed, although many parents - who are probably informed about the protection of the environment - came with their children to spend a pleasant and sunny day under the shade of umbrella pines giving them at the same time the chance to play educational and fun games, others do not share this developmental philosophy. Hence the idea of inviting young Lebanese and Syrians from all parts of the cedar country. “We have hope in the new generation. It is up to them to make changes in mentality in order to better protect the environment in Lebanon,” says the European ambassador.
On Saturday 15 June, outdoor children’s activities were organised to help them discover the various aspects of nature and to learn to protect the environment through sports and educational games. In addition to a refreshment area and a relaxation area for parents, concerts accompanied the activities into the early evening, in partnership with Onomatopeia. Young people were able to visit the stands of various NGOs participating in this event, in a positive atmosphere for the young and old.
Bees and storks
At Dar Onboz's stand, a young woman is surrounded by a group of children. “What noise does a horse make when it runs?” she asks. “Clip clop,” answer the children. “And what sound do bees make when they fly?” “Buzzzzz,” all agree together. An introduction to understanding the importance of bees in nature.
For Nahida Salha, president of the Metn-Nord Beekeepers Association, the importance of such an event is not just the protection of trees and flora in general, but of biodiversity as a whole. “The role of bees is paramount in the balance of the ecosystem. They are the main pollinators for nearly 80% of flowers and fruits. So, we need to preserve them at all costs,” says Nahida. At the Association’s stand, colouring courses, face painting and other educational games explain these important issues to the children. The EU has also supported the association by providing them with the essential equipment for producing high quality honey.
In addition to bees, an important role has been devoted this year to the protection of migratory birds. “Lebanon is considered the second most important point of transit for migratory birds, especially for storks,” said Roger Saad of the Association for the Protection of Birds in Lebanon. “These migratory birds cross 14,000 km each year, only 200 km of which is over Lebanon, where unfortunately they are often shot down. We want to explain to young people that we must take care of them, not kill them,” he says, adding: “We must love them, observe them, photograph them, not shoot them down.”
Perla Farhat is a volunteer from Jouzour Loubnan who works with Saint Joseph University (USJ). The EU has supported this Lebanese NGO through two initiatives, one as part of its reforestation efforts and the other under the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to which the EU contributes in order to ensure the conservation of rare and endemic plants in Lebanon. Perla explains to her audience of children the importance of preserving nature. “What are plants and trees used for?” she asks. “To make tabbouleh,” answers a little girl. “To make a table,” adds a little boy, a way for Perla to explain to them that we should not abuse the plant life, but use it in moderation.
“Our goal is to educate the children. They are the future of Lebanon,” explains Perla. “You have to instil in them a love for nature from an early age. And explain to them how to preserve our rich ecological heritage, our trees, our plants, etc.,” she adds.
At the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) or ‘Darb el-Jabal’ stand, the excitement is at its height. Several educational board games have been organised. Visitors are explained the activities of the association and its purpose. “The route starts from Qobayat in the north to finish in Marjeyoun in the south, crossing 470 km and 75 villages, divided into 27 areas,” says Takla Khoueiry. “Our goal is therefore to protect this trail, through an action plan with the municipalities, to preserve the ecological, gastronomic and cultural heritage of Lebanon,” elaborates Mohamad Mourtada, from his side. It should be noted that the LMT also benefited in part from EU support.
Indeed, the EU supports several NGOs and government projects related to environmental protection, air and sea pollution and forest protection, in order to preserve the very rich diversity of flora and fauna in Lebanon.
“This initiative and many of our educational projects related to the promotion and protection of a healthy environment are long-term actions. However, there are plenty of urgent environmental crises in Lebanon that need solutions quickly. The EU is already the largest donor in Lebanon in support of environmental projects. As an example, we are now in discussions with the Ministry of the Interior with regard to forming an environmental policy. But in the end, it's up to the Lebanese people and the government to get involved, our role is only to support and help them. But we cannot do it instead of the Lebanese,” concludes Ambassador Lassen.
Article by Antoine AJOURY