Latest from the Dalieh: Raouche rocks to become protected natural site (Lebanon)

6 years ago, Written by , Posted in Articles, Civil Society, Media re-posts

BEIRUT: The Environment Ministry is in the process of making Beirut’s landmark Raouche rocks a “natural site,” Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk said during the launching of a new marine biodiversity report Tuesday. “The ministry is working on a project to specify and characterize the Raouche rocks spot and its surroundings in the area of Ras Beirut as a natural place,” Machnouk told the crowd at the Holiday Inn in Verdun.

The Environment Ministry submitted a draft law to the Shura Council on March 17 to grant the area “natural site” status, he explained. This is the first step before the law is passed on to the council, where it may become law.

As a natural site, all infrastructure projects conducted in the area surrounding Raouche rocks will have to go through an approval process by the Environment Ministry.

The announcement came during the launching of an in-depth marine biodiversity report conducted by the Environment Ministry in collaboration with several other institutions. The report examines the marine biodiversity of six sites in Lebanon: Anfeh, Ras al-Chaqaa, Raouche, Sidon rocks, Tyre rocks and Naqoura.

The field surveys of the sites were conducted in 2012 and 2013 by the Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas but the results have now been aggregated in this 2015 report which details the marine makeup of these sites.

The report itself will be available online for the general public later this week, a source at the Environment Ministry said.

Machnouk said that three of the six sites examined will go on to become natural reserves, giving them a protected status, and the results of the report will be used to determine which ones receive this status.

As a protected site, infrastructure projects will be completely banned around these sites and fishing may also be prohibited depending on the nature of the site. This differs from the “natural site” status which the Raouche may receive – pending approval by the Shura Council and the Cabinet – which is more lenient.

Lebanon currently has two protected marine sites: the Palm IslandsNature Reserve in north Lebanon and the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve in south Lebanon, which received the status in 2007 and 2012 respectively.

Sites often benefit from becoming nature reserves as the status can start an ecotourism industry which can create jobs, and the areas are promoted by the Environment Ministry.

All protected sites also require the creation of a local committee to manage the site. These committees consist of local representatives, academics, NGOs and a representative from the Environment Ministry.

The plan to create three new protected areas and publish this report is part of the National Protection Strategy which the ministry formed with the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2012.

This strategy proposed 17 different sites across Lebanon to become protected, nine coastal and marine, four estuaries (the point where a river meets the sea), and four in the deep sea.

Lebanon’s commitment to protecting the biodiversity across its 240-kilometer coastline is in accordance with the Barcelona Declaration, an initiative aimed at uniting all the states which share the Mediterranean Sea, which it ratified in 1995.

Machnouk highlighted that the 11th objective outlined by the declaration is to ensure that 10 percent of the Mediterranean will be protected by 2020.

The Mediterranean contains 7 percent of all known marine species, despite the fact that it only covers 0.8 percent of the world’s water bodies. Advocacy groups have been pushing to declare more protected sites across the Mediterranean in order to preserve these species.

 A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 15, 2015, on page 4.