GOING GREEN

Lebanon 2015 | ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mohammad Machnouk, Minister of Environment, on strategies for tackling waste management, the importance of promoting recycling, and the future of Lebanon's generation portfolio.

HE Mohammad Machnouk
BIOGRAPHY
Born in 1941, HE Mohammad Machnouk obtained a BA in Political Science and Public Administration from AUB in 1968, and has a degree in Media from University of Strasbourg in France. He was formerly the General Director of the Beirut al Massa newspaper (1966-73), the General Director of the National News Agency at the Ministry of Information (1973-79), representative of Lebanon to the Standing Committee of the Arab Media in the Arab League (1973-79), President of the Federation of Arab News Agencies (1988-89), media lecturer at the Lebanese University and Beirut University College (1975-85), Member of the Board of Trustees of Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association (1978-2004), Chairman of the Education Committee (1994-04), President of the Cultural Council of the city of Beirut (2000-04), President of the American University Alumni Association (1998-2004), and a member of its Supreme Council.

Environmental degradation has emerged as one of the key challenges facing Lebanon's economic and social development, costing the country $908.8 million each year. What initiatives aimed at improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of solid waste management is the Ministry of Environment currently undertaking?

The Ministry of Environment is involved in two initiatives. The SWAM project consists of building and operating sorting and composting plants and sanitary landfills in Lebanon. This project will lead to the closure of several open dumps and will stop the open burning activities. The second initiative is the national strategy for solid waste management issued by the Ministry of Environment, which is now in the bidding process and should be implemented starting end of July 2015.

How does the Ministry of Environment promote recycling and re-usage of materials among the Lebanese population?

The Ministry of Environment promotes recycling through supporting awareness campaigns by participating in workshops, conducting lectures, and approving plans and programs related to sorting at source for NGOs and municipalities

Over the past decade, forest fires have been increasingly seen in Mount Lebanon. What steps are being taken to reduce the intensity and frequency?

The Ministry of Environment in collaboration with AFDC (a national NGO) and the concerned ministries developed in 2009 "The National Strategy for Forest Fires Management In Lebanon," which was approved by the Council of Ministers. The strategy covers five axes, including research and analysis, forest protection, forest fires eruption preparedness, combatting forest fire, and rehabilitation. The five axes are the responsibilities and prerogatives of many ministries and institutions. Regarding rehabilitation, the Ministry of Environment has executed a national reforestation program aiming at the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forest areas in all Lebanese regions.

The proportion of forested land in Lebanon was 10% in 2014, a big reduction on 30% forested area 40 years ago. What is the importance of afforestation and reforestation projects in the drive for recreating “Green Lebanon"?

Due to the rapid growth of Lebanon's population, coupled with the development of agriculture and urban construction, as well as improper forest management, the degradation of forest resources in Lebanon has been accelerating. The Lebanese government has increased its focus on forest conservation and restoration of degraded forest ecosystems. A series of measures has been put in place through the National reforestation strategy applied by Ministry of Environment. Afforestation causes fundamental changes in ecosystem structure and functioning, all of which may affect local and national biodiversity. On the other hand, afforestation and reforestation projects are among a suite of approaches available to address the challenge of climate change and the inclusion of land use change.

What is your outlook for the transformation of the energy sector in Lebanon and what are the prospects for the future of clean technologies and renewable energy production in the drive for economic growth?

Lebanon demonstrates a high-capacity potential, exceeding our electricity demand for years to come, through the deployment of three renewable energy technologies: hydropower, wind power, and solar power. If renewable energy sources are incorporated into Lebanon's energy mix, the overall cost to the economy will be reduced and will consequently boost growth in terms of employment, sustainability, and overall economic health as government funds are reshuffled and reprioritized. That is the essence of the low-emission economy we are working toward.