GETTING STRAIGHT TO WORK

Lebanon 2019 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Given the environmental challenges facing Lebanon, including pollution and a waste crisis, the Ministry of Environment has put together a master plan to tackle key issues.

Fady Jreissati
BIOGRAPHY
Fady Jreissati graduated from the American University of Beirut with a bachelor’s of arts in public administration and political science. He has served as President of the NGO Lebanese National Energy (LNE), CEO of Sakr Real Estate, and Vice-President of IFP Group. For over 22 years, he has worked on the organization of major trade exhibitions, including Project Lebanon, the largest trade show in the country, and the 18th UN climate change conference and exhibition in Qatar.

What are the key priorities for the Ministry of Environment (MOE)?

MOE is facing probably the biggest environmental crisis in the history of Lebanon, namely the enormous pollution that affects our lands, sea, and rivers, the result of decades-long negligence. Expectations from the MOE are extremely high and, unfortunately, not correlated to the budget available at our disposal. The first priority is to deal with the solid waste crisis, which has become a nightmare, especially in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

How do you intend to tackle the waste crisis?

We have recently prepared a master plan and road map that I have to present to the Council of Ministers for approval. The philosophy behind the plan is to give the private sector a larger role due to the fact that public institutions were not able to fulfill their commitments and duties. Our role will be to supervise the private sector and put in place rules and regulations. We have divided Lebanon into 12 service zones. Different companies will bid for the contract for each zone, with no more than two zones awarded to the same company, to avoid a monopoly. Competition is key to keeping prices low and service levels high. Companies will also be able to bring in their own technology and solutions based on the market and the types of waste we have in Lebanon (e.g. medical, industrial, household). As a temporary solution, we intend to convert some of Lebanon's 960 illegal dumps into sanitary landfills. This will represent a transition phase, while awaiting the awarding of waste management tenders, which may take up to two years. We are also checking which of the 1,370 illegal quarries can be converted or used as landfills. This means stopping the corruption and illegal decisions that have prevailed to date. We are currently presenting our new master plan for quarries to the Council of Ministers, and we seek to involve public opinion through social media to raise awareness and bypass any political obstacles. I am confident we will see some positive results on this front, especially given the productive and transparent collaboration between the ministries. At the end of the day, taking care of the environment is not only the duty of this ministry, but all stakeholders.

What is the MOE's commitment to tackling climate change?

Climate change is an important priority for MOE. Lebanon has ratified a number of international initiatives, including the Paris and Montreal agreements. Now it is time to implement these commitments and ensure we reduce the impact of our economic activities on the environment. We receive great support and funding from international donors, such as the EU, to remain aligned with these requirements. An important component of this strategy is reducing emissions from private and public means of transportation. Moreover, Lebanon now abides by international laws such as the Basel Agreement to prohibit certain polluting products. Industries are receiving consultancy services and changing their filtering and production systems and manufacturing lines to ensure environmental conformity.

Does the MOE play a role in the nascent gas industry in Lebanon?

There is a productive collaboration with the gas industry. MOE has approved the EIA and Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) that was recently undertaken by the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA). More recently, MOE has formed a partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Waters and LPA to access the database derived from the baseline survey undertaken by Total. This will provide us access to diverse information on Lebanon's ecosystem and biodiversity that we did not possess before. The data will also give us valuable indicators and a benchmark by which to determine whether oil exploration has any adverse effects on our waters over time. MOE has also presented a plan to receive a percentage of gas revenues to compensate for the inevitable trade-off between underwater drilling and the environment. Given the ministry's small budget, this money will provide an important contribution to environmental projects.