According to Environment and Administrative Development Minister Tarek Mitri, lack of coordination between the concerned ministries has meant Lebanon now has no strategic plan to solve its environmental problems. Mitri was speaking during a conference at Bathish Hall at the American University of Beirut (AUB) for World Environment Day. The conference was jointly organized by the Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment and Development) magazine and the Alumni Association at AUB.

Governments are incapable of solving their serious environmental problems, and the international community is are incapable of solving countries' local problems," said Mitri.

The minister added that the more serious problems need to be resolved on the international level and will require extensive cooperation between neighboring countries.

He said: "The ministry's duties are to assign environmental priorities on the national level and to help municipalities perform their own duties regarding the environment. We also seek international and local financing parties to execute projects and studies."

Mitri also said water pollution in Lebanon is the main priority of his ministry, followed by air pollution. He added that most Lebanese complain about the effect of the quarries, insisting their damage can't be compared to the damage caused by cars, considered among the major causes behind the deterioration of the country's air situation.

Lebanon's environmental problems include water pollution, land and air pollution and land degradation - a decline in soil fertility. Others problems are related to soil erosion, solid and liquid urban waste, and deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

Mitri suggested the establishment of training programs for environmental experts and the development of other programs to monitor pollution and engage in environmental research and generate public dialogue on the environmental problems facing the country.

Other environmental programs, such as Al-Bia Wal Tanmia magazine's Environment Hotline have cropped up to offer assistance to citizens and raise awareness about the importance of maintaining an environmentally friendly lifestyle. The hotline has been receiving people's complaints on a daily basis since its initiation.

Jordanian Environment Minister Khaled Irani, also speaking during the conference, said the environment is still far from being considered an important factor in many countries' development.

He said: "When we realize that the environment plays a crucial role in the economy, we will evaluate it and include it in our national strategic plans."

Irani also said environmental priorities should be set by the respective countries, but should match priorities set by international environmental groups.

The Jordanian official suggested establishing a yearly conference for the countries of the region where each would present a report stating its priorities, achievements and weaknesses.

Regional manager of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Habib Habr said most of Lebanon's environmental problems, such as cleaning the Mediterranean coast, concern its neighboring countries and can only be solved when all the parties communicate and cooperate.

Habr also urged governments of the region to agree on their environmental priorities and seek financial support from international organizations.

This year's World Environment Day falls under the theme of "Green Cities: Plan for the Planet."

Commemorated each year on June 5, World Environment Day is one of the principal vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment in the hope of enhancing private, corporate and political attention and action.

The aims of this year's theme are to give a human face to environmental issues, empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development, promote the understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes toward environmental issues, and advocate partnership among nations to allow people to enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.


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