Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Lebanese Environmental disaster

The invasion of Lebanon by Israel is not only morally unjustified, it is also having devastating effects on the environment. I had the pleasure of visiting Lebanon only two weeks before the Israelis started bombing it out of existence. It was a beautiful country, and the massive effort that had gone into rebuilding Beirut and other towns was everywhere apparent. The people were clearly optimistic, and a great future lay ahead. The environmental movement -- that had actually not only survived during the dreadful civil war but started to develop -- was blooming. In a week's time the launch of the first really good field guide to birds was being planned. It was an Arabic translation of Richard Porter's Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East. A consortium of wildlife organisations (including the World Land Trust) had got together to fund the publication because it is well known that one of the best ways of stimulating interest in wildlife and wildlife conservation is make high quality field guides available. The number of birdwatchers in the Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East is still small, but growing, and this book will give impetus and fire their enthusiasm.

But now everything has been set back by Israel's aggression in the region. An animal rescue centre I visited is having problems because the bombing has caused food prices to escalate. No one knows where the next bombs will fall. Innocent civilians are the main casualty, but the country's infrastructure is being completely torn apart. I had been extolling the beauties of the montane flora to botanist friends -- there was a huge potential for ecotourism -- all shattered when Israeli bombs tore into the international airport. And the international powers, such as Britain and the US, so quick to interfere when oil supplies are involved are standing by and watching, to all intents and purposes silent.

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