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Environment: Between the government and the public

By Najib Saab, Issue 40-41, July/August 2001

Recently I went over the results of a survey on Arab environmental trends. The results showed that more than 90% of those included in the survey demand more strict laws to preserve the environment, even if that meant imposing some restrictions. The results also indicated that more than 80% were prepared to take personal environmentally friendly actions to contribute towards protecting the environment such as using public transportation, switching to unleaded fuel and conserving water and electricity. 77% agreed to pay taxes that are allocated to protecting the environment. Lebanon's statistics were among the best in comparison to other Arab countries, a clear indication of the public's increasing environmental awareness.



The results of this survey are guidelines that we should follow. The public expects effective action that will preserve the environment and natural resources, in order to protect the rights of this and coming generations. The individual's responsibility does not negate the government's central role in overseeing environmental programmes.


Whatever pressing problems we face in politics, economy, war and peace, we should not postpone the environmental issue. After all is said and done, we will still have to breathe, eat and drink! It is inconceivable that coming generations will not enjoy their right to fresh air, pure water and clean soil.


The government is convinced that environmental management should be an integral part of development plans according to a system of priorities that begins by ceasing all actions that cause irreparable environmental damage, and ends in developing resources in a balanced way that caters to economical needs without destroying the environment. It is imperative that within a short period environmental costs will be included in the government's budget balance sheet, in order to stop pollution and the consumption of natural resources for free. We are also convinced that taxes and restrictions should be imposed on pollutants as well as labor and production. International experiences have shown that the correct use of resources, protecting nature and increasing clean production that generates less pollutants and waste, all lead towards a better quality of life. It has also been proven that environmental efficiency is not in conflict with economical profit. Protecting the environment, though costly, will lead to decreasing health hazards, attracting more tourists and bringing in more investments.


Entering the era of advanced technology and the communications revolution, as developers and not merely consumers, will also lead to preserving the environment. In addition to the positive results provided by science in terms of solutions to the problems of pollution and to what communications have achieved by bringing peoples closer together, forewarning of possible hazards and spreading the word on effective solutions, the communications revolution had immediate results in the field of environment protection. Imagine that a satellite weighing 100 Kg might replace nowadays tons of ground cables, in addition to decreasing the amount of materials used.


Increasing production, distributing wealth through balanced development and eliminating acute poverty, are factors that affect environmental protection positively. The environment is protected by some one who believes in the future and is not afraid of tomorrow. Even privatization programmes will affect the environment positively, if not directly, if they lead to higher efficiency in production and less consumption of resources.


We are convinced of all that, and it was included in the cabinet's policy statement However, we need the support of those who expressed their opinion in the environmental survey, those who remain a silent majority and an underlying force. We invite them today to make their voice heard within the cabinet as well as in the parliament.


Some still consider destroying the environment the cheapest way towards quick profit, and some still think that protecting a quarry or overlooking building violation will win the voter's confidence. Personal interests are standing in the way of implementing the complete environmental management plan that we promised in the cabinet's policy statement. But I assure once again that the cabinet is committed to implement its obligations.


For this all, I wish that the public’s opinion be heard, in order to support environmental protection measures, to demand it from the parliament and not to accept meager and quick profits at the expense of the future.


Environmental problems cannot be solved except by the cooperation of the ordinary citizen, economists, traders, farmers, intellectuals and politicians. My attention was drawn to Environment & Development magazine's emphasis on the logo "A Better Environment Begins with You". The magazine has actually began implementing this logo without waiting for anyone's support, and has gone ahead with an environmental venture that succeeded within 5 years to reach all Arab countries.


I congratulate Environment & Development magazine on its 5th anniversary, as it has evolved proficiently into an Arab environmental institution that reflects a strong belief in Lebanon’s continuing resurgence and its infinite role as a pioneer.


The Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri attended and addressed the guests at Environment & Development magazine's 5th anniversary reception, where he also received from the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Najib Saab the first membership card in the "Environment and Development Forum".

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
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