SDG14: LIFE BELOW WATER

Stretching along the Mediterranean Sea from north to south, Lebanon’s marine resources and seashore are of high environmental, economic, political and social value. Lebanon’s shore extends about 230 km along the Mediterranean Sea and is globally acknowledged for its rich biodiversity. The coast includes Lebanon’s largest cities, where around three-quarters of the population live. Lebanon is party to the 1976 Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution and its amendment (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region in the Mediterranean, Barcelona 1995); the London Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (1973) and from Oil (1954 and 1994); the Jamaica Convention of the Sea (1982); the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 1982); the 2008 Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, which draws on the Barcelona Convention; and the 2002 Prevention and Emergency Protocol (pollution from ships and emergency situations). A draft national integrated coastal zone management law has been prepared, which could, along with the environment protection law, determine new principles for the protection of the coast and marine environment.

In 2018 the Cabinet endorsed the National Biodiversity Action Plan (prepared in 2016) that includes the protection of coastal and marine biodiversity. Lebanon has two coastal protected areas: The Palm Islands Nature Reserve and the Tyr Coast Nature Reserve.

The Ministry of Environment’s Marine Protected Areas Strategy (prepared in 2012 in collaboration with other stakeholders) aims to create a network of protected areas consisting of nine marine or coastal sites, five estuary sites, and between one and four deep sea sites.

The CNRS-L’s National Center for Marine Sciences is running a national coastal monitoring programme of 25 sites to better manage the Lebanese coastal zone and help create marine protected areas. This programme includes evaluating the environmental status of the Lebanese coastal water, studying the impact of diverse anthropogenic pollution sources on the seawater quality, and studying the accumulation of organic, chemical and micro plastics pollutants in water, sediment and biota.

The Lebanese University is willing to develop this axis by cooperating with CNRS-L in this field as well as other specialized international and local institutions, to develop research and put standards, on the one hand and in the other hand by creating a faculty for maritime Sciences, but it needs adequate decree and legal procedures from Lebanese authorities and government.

Lebanon’s National Biodiversity and Action Plan (NBSAP) 2016-2030 addresses Lebanon’s obligations under Article 6a of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is an update of the country’s first NBSAP issued in 1998. The revised NBSAP was aligned with the new CBD strategic goals and integrated the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets while taking into consideration both global and local needs and aspirations, as well as reflecting Lebanon’s specific realm and the current existing professional capacities and awareness levels.

One of the main objectives of the NBSAP is to mainstream biodiversity into sectoral and cross-sectoral strategies, plans and programmes. The NBSAP has been prepared through an interactive process of stakeholder consultation and approval translated into five workshops and several steering committee meetings.

cooperation with the “Student & Youth Association”, students of the "UNESCO Club" in the Lebanese University - Faculty of Letters & Human Sciences (Branch 5) organized a campaign on 28 June 2020, to clean the Ghazieh beach. The campaign included awareness campaigns and the distribution of leaflets about the protection of the marine environment.

The campaign was launched in the presence of the Faculty Director, Dr. Nassif Nehme, Student & Youth Association President, Bilal Ghaddar, Mayor of Ghazieh Municipality, Ahmed Khalifa, community and educational personalities, and a group of school students.

In his speech, Dr. Nehme stressed the importance of cooperation and partnership between university students, NGOs and society to make environmental, cultural and scientific activities successful.

In cooperation with the French Institute of the Near East (IFPO), the Lebanese University - Faculty of Fine Arts & Architecture (Department of Urbanism) organized the first seminar in the series of the 2020 meetings on "Ecology, Politics and Urbanism", entitled “Beirut River: What is the river in the city? Sanitation, oasis or link between the city and the interior?”

The seminar held on 16 January 2020 in Beirut - Sodeco, was attended by Stéphane Gotti (University of Montpellier), Adib Dada (consultant), Claudine Abdel-Massih (Arab Center for Architecture) and Ghassan Moukheiber (legal and former MP in the Lebanese Parliament). The seminar was also attended by a group of researchers, university professors and students in Lebanon, and representatives of the civil society and NGOs.

The Head of the Department of Urbanism, Dr. Salahuddin Sadek representing the Faculty Dean, Dr. Mohamed Hosni El-Hajj, launched the seminar, and Dr. Michel Mouton, Director of the French Institute of the Near East, spoke about the importance of cooperation with the Lebanese University.

Dr. Jihad Farah, from the Department of Urbanism at the Faculty of Fine Arts & Architecture, explained the problems to be addressed in the upcoming meetings, and Dr. Guillaume de Vaulx of the IFPO talked about a competition to be launched this year in conjunction with the seminar schedule.

The National Center for the Quality of Medicine, Food, Water and Chemicals at the Lebanese University released the results of analyzing water samples taken from a number of households in the central and western Beqaa.

The analysis showed that bacterial contamination affected surface and ground water and the distribution networks, and therefore the drinking water that reached households in those areas is not suitable for drinking. According to the Center, the results of the bacteriological analysis of drinking and usage water showed that a well near Chamsine Spring fed the town of Bar Elias, and that the bacteria therein exceeded the maximum permissible limit for drinking water due to its contamination with wastewater.

The analysis of samples of Ain ez Zarqa Spring in Sohmor, which fed some of the western Beqaa and Rachaiya towns, showed the presence of bacterial contamination attributed to the problem of distribution networks due to the exit of clean, potable water from the treatment plant and its contamination before reaching the subscribers.

The Center, managed by Dr. Nazih Bou Chahine, signed in 2017 an agreement with the Ministry of Public Health, and became a national reference for the quality standard in analysis with the efforts of a team composed of a number of doctors and technologists, including Dr. Mohamed Qoubar (Head of the Department Bacteriological Analysis), Dr. Fatina Suleiman (Coordinator of Food Committee), Dr. Nabil Amasha (Representative of the Center with the Litani Authority), Inaam Nasrallah (Quality Officer at the Center), Fatima Zaiour (Technical Officer) and Mariam Zeina (Technical Technician).

A sign warning against swimming because of pollution seems to have had little effect on this beach near the city of Tripoli, one of a declining number of public beaches in Lebanon.

Poorer Lebanese have few good choices to enjoy the beach in the sweltering Middle Eastern summer. Drive down the coastal highway and the signs point to one expensive resort after another, with little space left for public access.

“If people had money they wouldn’t come here... If someone has four or five children, where could he take them? If his salary is $500 or $600 a month, where could he take them?” said 63-year-old Adnan Daouk at the only public beach in the capital Beirut.

Pollution spills into the sea along stretches of Lebanon’s often dramatic, hilly coastline. In places, raw sewage sometimes washes into the water, according to a recent report on public beaches by the state-run National Centre for Marine Sciences.

Lebanon also has a rubbish disposal problem. Landfill sites, some by the seashore, are overflowing and in recent years, winter storms have covered nearby beaches with plastic.

A civil defense maneuver in Lake Qaraoun to raise awareness of drowning accidents and to take sediment samples from the bottom of the lake, with the participation of environmental experts and students from the Lebanese University.

The Museum of Natural Sciences at the Lebanese University exists since 1979 and is a scientific wing that serves as a research tool for students and researchers, and a cultural portal for the stakeholders.

The museum includes a collection of samples of insects, reptiles and fossils, which the war that Lebanon had gone through had destroyed some of its contents and the remains were transferred to the Faculty of Sciences in Fanar in 1984. Before its official opening in May 2004, the museum was an insectology laboratory and part of a research project funded by the British Embassy in Beirut, as stated by Dr. Najla Zaidan, one of the Museum founders.

Dr. Zaidan said the museum's assets managed by the Department of Life Sciences and Earth at the Faculty of Sciences, include fossils and all that is related to Earth science from insects, reptiles, amphibians and stone tools used by humans two million years ago and the oldest in the Middle East. She also noted to the importance of documentary annotations alongside the exhibits (lists of names, sources and dates).

The Lebanese University, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, aims to put the Museum of Natural Sciences - Fanar and George Tohme's herbarium - on the list of national museums, to be the main contributor to the dissemination of environmental and scientific culture about Lebanon.