Archive for January, 2012

The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

January 25, 2012

                                           The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

by Moshe Terdiman

January 2012

Introduction

On October 9, 2010, Hizbullah’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, briefly came out of hiding to mark the end of Hizbullah’s campaign to plant million trees in Lebanon to restore the country’s forests. This campaign was organized by Jihad al-Binaa, Hizbullah’s reconstruction arm, and sponsored by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture, Hussein Hajj Hassan. With a shovel on his hand, Hassan Nasrallah was shown on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station digging a hole, planting and watering a small tree outside his home, which was destroyed by air raids during the July 2006 War. Hassan Nasrallah, who had been last seen in public in July 2008, was accompanied by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture for the ceremony.[1]

Nasrallah gave a speech at the event in which he praised Jihad al-Binaa for its role in organizing this campaign. He said that “this is an ancient Jihad for Jihad Al Binaa. However and praise be to Allah Al Mighty it was an ascending jihad. Perhaps the only period of time in which the agricultural and tree-planting side retreated was in 2006 when Jihad Al Binaa was occupied with a greater priority – namely facing the repercussions of July War in 2006. This year the effort was advanced and made greater through the advertisement and the execution of the million tree campaign”.[2]

However, Nasrallah said that planting trees should not be organized and implemented only by Jihad al-Binaa, but “we must deal with it as an important great national issue which needs mustering all efforts. Hence was the cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon, the various municipalities, the youths’ societies and others”.[3]

He added that “We, Lebanese. Always extol the green Lebanon. Of course this will soon be a thing of the past”. According to Nasrallah, green Lebanon is not going to last much longer due to desertification, rampant building and environmental neglect.[4]

Another reason for that, according to Nasrallah’s speech, is that the trees have a very significant role as one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristic. In this context, he blamed Israel for setting trees on fire, shelling and destroying trees within the territories occupied by her in south Lebanon and the Biqa’ between the years 1982 – 2000. Also during the July 2006 War, Israel shelled many forests without any reason other than destroying one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristics.[5]  

Therefore, Nasrallah urged all Lebanese to follow his example and plant trees outside their homes. Nasrallah gave religious justifications to his plea by citing Islamic traditions and hadiths. He said that “afforestation is part of Lebanese national security”, since “Lebanon Protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.[6]

The Planting Activities of Jihad al-Binaa

This ceremony marked the end of Jihad al-Binaa’s campaign to plant one million trees throughout Lebanon during the year 2010. The campaign would not be possible without the help of Syria. Its Ministry of Agriculture donated more than 800,000 trees for the project. The campaign focused on reforesting green areas burned during the July 2006 War. About 290,000 of the trees were planted in south Lebanon.[7] 

Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, said a few days before the end of the campaign that “throughout 18 years, we have planted around 7,300,000 trees. The average increases yearly”. He stressed that during the past few years, Jihad al-Binaa had been successfully planting one million trees every year and the “one million tree campaign” in 2010 just emphasized this frame of work. According to him, in 2010, the tree plantings involved cooperation with around 4,700 groups throughout Lebanon including community groups, municipalities, organizations, farmers, associations and scout groups. This campaign is expected to continue to be conducted on a yearly basis, while each year a certain region will be prioritized.[8]

Architect Muhammad Hajj further said that the aims of the 2010 one million tree campaign are manifold: “its major aim is to enhance the environment and fight desertification, which has become a phenomenon in Lebanon due to the fires, cutting trees and other reasons. Therefore, this campaign pours into recovering Lebanon’s green cover”. However, this project had also other aims including education of the people concerning the importance of the land, of reconstruction, of recovering greenery and of resistance. Architect Muhammad Hajj mentioned that “the Holy Qur’an focused on the importance of reconstruction and agricultural works”.  But, according to him, the most important thing is the resistance aspect of the trees, since they have served as shelter for thousands of Hizbullah fighters.[9]

Architect Muhammad Hajj added that there have been efforts to make the Dahiyah quarter in Beirut green along with the process of its continued reconstruction following the damages that it suffered during the July 2006 War. These efforts are managed by Jihad al-Binaa in cooperation with the municipalities. He said that “the municipalities own few lands in the suburbs, and these are rather used for public services like building schools and organizations. Therefore, they work on planting small fields instead, and plant greenery on the sides of the highways, roads, and sidewalks. Due to that, one of the ideas the municipalities consider is to plant green field on the buildings’ roofs as well”.[10]  

Jihad al-Binaa’s Environmental Activities

Nasrallah’s speech as well as the interview conducted with Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, shed light on the environmental activities of Jihad al-Binaa, which began already in the late 1980s and have been going on uninterruptedly ever since, except for the July 2006 War.

Jihad al-Binaa (Holy Reconstruction Organ) is an organ within Hizbullah which   provides support services to its members, new recruits, and supporters. These services range from medical care to financial aid, housing, and public utilities. It is divided into 8 committees. Three of these committees are engaged in environmental or environmental-related issues. The Water and Power Resources Committees has fixed over one hundred water and power stations from the Biqa’ to the South. The Environmental Committee has been active in studying and surveying polluted areas, while the Agricultural Committee has established agricultural cooperatives selling insecticides, seeds, and fertilizers to farmers at prices lower than the market price. The work of all committees is supervised by a technical and administrative committee, which is part of Jihad al-Binaa, whose main aim is to study and provide help for impoverished regions of Lebanon.[11]

Jihad al-Binaa’s environmental activity began in the late 1980s, when Hizbullah seized control of the Shi’ite Dahiyah quarter in Beirut after defeating the Amal faction. Then, the Hizbullah leaders found themselves responsible for finding immediate solutions for the social service crisis faced by about half million inhabitants of the quarter which was about to exacerbate even more because many families, who were displaced by the fierce fighting between the Shi’ite factions in the south, continued to find refuge there. During that period, which overlapped General Michel Aoun’s administration (1988 – 1990), the Dahiyah was almost completely cut off from water and electricity services due to neglect and fighting. As a result, about 40 percent of the water from Ayn al-Dilbin, the Dahiyah’s major source of drinking water, had been lost and its purity had been gravely compromised. In an attempt to supply the ever-growing populace, water authorities dug artesian wells but this ultimately resulted in contamination of the whole water network.[12]

On this background, Hezbollah decided to first deal with the severe public health hazards threatening the Dahiyah, i.e., the piling garbage and the short water and electricity supply, especially in the absence of any other effective local or central authorities. Already in 1988, it started to build daily garbage collection service to remove the mountains of waste that had built up over the years. This mechanism replaced a basic governmental function in several municipalities. This service operated five years until the Lebanese Sanitation Department started to get back on its feet. Yet, Hizbullah is still operating its daily garbage collection service and treats it with insecticides to supplement the government’s service.[13]

In addition, Jihad al-Binaa was engaged in the installation of drinking fountains and decent toilets at public school in the Dahiyah as well as in supplying its inhabitants with emergency water delivery and electricity. With help from the Iranian government, Jihad al-Binaa constructed public water containers, provided cisterns and employed several drivers to transport water to the suburbs from nearby sources, in addition to extending the water network by some 15,000 meters of water pipes. It built 4,000-litre water reservoirs in each district of the southern suburbs and filling each of them five times a day from continuously circulating tanker trucks. Generators mounted on trucks also made regular rounds from building to building to provide electricity to pump water from private cisterns. For that aim, Jihad al-Binaa has been purchasing the portable water from the Beirut Water Board on a daily basis and the cistern fills up from the main reservoir of Bourj Abi Haidar in Beirut. To this date, the inhabitants of the Dahiyah are still dependent on Hizbullah to provide them with drinking water.[14]

In order to solve the problem of regular supply of water for the residents of the Dahiyah, Jihad al-Binaa presented at the beginning of the 2000s a construction plan to build the Bisri Dam project on the Awali River, which would have the capacity of collecting 600,000 cubic meters of water, from which it would draw 120,000 cubic meters for the regular water supply of the Dahiyah’s residents.[15] The construction of the dam has not been finalized yet. On April 24, 2010, the Lebanese cabinet finally tasked the Council for Development and Reconstruction with completing the Bisri Dam Project despite its location near a major seismic fault line.[16]

Jihad al-Binaa has also been engaged in environmental activities in rural areas in south Lebanon and in the Biqa’. In these areas, Jihad al-Binaa has been focused on agricultural projects including training, laboratories and forestation projects. Indeed, already in 1992, Jihad al-Binaa started the “Good Tree” Project, which has been conducted annually since then. The project has involved planting trees in the different Lebanese regions.[17] As of 2003, Jihad al-Binaa was planting some 40,000 trees annually in each reforestation campaign.[18]

It developed an agricultural project in the Biqa’, which emphasized farming as a religious duty that met the needs of the Muslim people. Between 1998 and 2002, Jihad al-Binaa built or renovated seven agricultural center cooperatives.[19]As of 2004, Jihad al-Binaa served about 5,000 farmers across Lebanon, offering pesticides and fertilizers at cost as well as a free extension service. Its veterinarians held yearly vaccinations for cows, goats and sheep, and keep tabs on fish as well. Jihad al-Binaa is also engaged with organic farming to reduce environmental stress and help meet a new domestic demand for healthy food. It used to distribute every year about half a million forest and fruit-bearing seedlings in order to help combat desertification and prevent erosion.[20]

Summary

From the late 1980s, Hizbullah has shown itself to be really engaged in environmental activities in the Dahiyah, south Lebanon and the Biqa’, regions populated heavily by Shi’ites, and also elsewhere throughout Lebanon. These environmental activities have included public health, agriculture, and organic farming.

In the absence of governmental, regional or local and municipal authorities, Hizbullah had first conducted these environmental activities without any competition and, thus, succeeded to win the Shi’ite Lebanese allegiance and loyalty, which later on would be translated into political power in the Lebanese parliament.   

Alongside the abovementioned environmental activities, Hizbullah has also been engaged in planting trees. Indeed, trees are very important to the Lebanese. Trees, and especially cedar trees,  have been connected with Lebanon from ancient times. The cedar tree is the symbol of modern Lebanon and is shown on its flag. Lebanon without trees will not be the same country anymore. Hizbullah, as a Lebanese Islamic organization, has really worked hard on reforestation of the parts of Lebanon which have suffered deforestation and combating desertification is one of the stated goals of Jihad al-Binaa.

Yet, according to Hizbullah’s ideology, the greening of Lebanon has not been done for the sake of fighting desertification and afforestation of the country alone, but mainly as means of fighting against Israel. The trees are a main strategic natural element in the struggle of Hizbullah against Israel. The trees have been serving as a place of refuge and hiding for Hizbullah’s fighters. The forests’ canopy used to hide ammunition, rocket launchers and other fighting means of Hizbullah. Thus, the trees have been an inseparable part of the strategy of Hizbullah’s ongoing struggle against Israel.

Therefore, from Hizbullah point of view, planting millions of trees in Lebanon is not only important from an environmental point of view, but it is also important for ensuring its present and future role, as it used to be in the past, as a vital strategic natural asset in the struggle against Israel. Thus, the current plantation of trees and reforestation of south Lebanon, among other regions, might also serve from Hizbullah point of view as a preparation for the next cycle of fighting against Israel, when, as Nasrallah put it, “Lebanon protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.  
 


 

[1] See on-line at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/10/hezbollah-nasrallah-plants-trees/; http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/wehbe091010.html; http://iloubnan.info/en/detail/20/51018

[2] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[3] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[4] See on-line at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/10/hezbollah-nasrallah-plants-trees/; http://iloubnan.info/en/detail/20/51018; http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

 

[5] http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[6] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[7] See on-line at: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/AUB+project+aims+to+instill+sense+of+appreciation+for+biodiversity.-a0216984413

[8] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

 

[9] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[10] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[11] See on-line at: http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/pspa/hamzeh2.html#back33  

[12] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[13] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[14] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, pp. 84-85. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false; http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp  

[15] See on-line at: http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp

[16] See on-line at: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=163124

[17] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[18] See on-line at: http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp

[19] See on-line at: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2010/1006_jsou-report-10-5.pdf 

[20] See on-line at: http://www.internationalreportingproject.org/stories/detail/472/

 

The Launch of the Green Economy Initiative in the UAE

January 15, 2012

By Moshe Terdiman

January 2012

 

Introduction

On January 15, 2012, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of a long-term national initiative to build green economy in the UAE under the slogan “A green economy for sustainable development”.

This initiative’s aims are threefold: to make the UAE one of the global pioneers in green economy, a hub for exporting and re-exporting green products and technologies, and a country preserving a sustainable environment that supports long-term economic growth. Sheikh Al Maktoum said that “our goal from this national initiative is clear, that is, to build an economy that protects the environment as well as an environment that supports the growth of the economy. We in the UAE, within the vision 2021, are striving to build a diversified economy based on knowledge and innovation, through which we can provide excellent employment opportunities to our citizens. Through this, we can protect our natural and environmental resources, and strengthen our competitive position in global markets, especially in the areas of renewable energy products and technologies on the green economy.” He added that “we are serious about the transformation of our development process to reach the first position on the global level. During the next nine years and up to the year 2021 we will launch a range of initiatives and projects in all areas to achieve our goal”.[1]

According to Sheikh Al Maktoum, the announcement coincides with the launch of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, which will begin on January 18, 2012, in order to “reaffirm our commitments to the world of our serious endeavor to diversify energy sources and preserve the environment, as well as to become a model for all countries that want to strive to achieve the same goal”.[2] 

The green economy initiative consists of various programs, projects, legislation, and policies in six major fields, including: promoting the production and use of renewable energy and developing standards for energy consumption in the public and private sectors; encouraging investments in green economy and facilitating the production, import, export and re-export of green products and technologies; planning of green cities, green building, and environmental-friendly transportation; reducing carbon emissions from industrial and commercial sites, promoting organic agriculture, and maintaining biodiversity and the ecological balance in the UAE;  regulating the use of water resources, electricity, and natural resources, recycling water and promoting environmental education; and developing green technology, while its first phase includes carbon capture and conversion of water into energy.[3]  

UAE’s Vision 2021

The Green Economy initiative falls under the UAE’s Vision 2021 document, which was released by the UAE cabinet on February 7, 2010.[4] This document outlines the future challenges facing the UAE and how to best deal with them until the year 2021, when the UAE will celebrate its golden jubilee.

The UAE Vision 2021 specifically mentions the need to develop and promote renewable energy sources as one of the challenges facing the UAE. It says that “we want the UAE to sustain its drive toward economic diversification, as this is the nation’s surest path to sustainable development in a future that is less reliant on oil. This means expanding new strategic sectors to channel our energies into industries and services where we can build a long-term competitive advantage. Balanced growth must be fuelled by a sustainable range of energy sources, within which the UAE will ensure an important role for alternative and renewable options such as nuclear power”.[5]

Facing climate change and its effects on current and future generations as well as the need to protect and preserve the environment are central challenges which face the UAE, according to Vision 2021. It says that “in the face of humanity’s shared ecological challenges, we want the UAE to vigorously support international initiatives to protect the environment in full consciousness of its worldwide responsibility. As a global nation, the UAE is committed to playing its part in developing and implementing innovative solutions to protect and sustain the environment. New, energy-efficient technologies will harness the UAE’s pioneering role in the green revolution and reduce its carbon footprint. The government will act decisively to reduce the nation’s ecological deficit, promoting environmental awareness and responsible behavior among Emiratis. The UAE will mitigate the effects of climate change in order to safeguard its environment for current and future generations. The nation’s rich natural environment will be shielded from human-induced threats – both global and local – by preventive measures such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and regulations to defend fragile ecosystems from urban development. The Federation will safeguard Emiratis from harm in the event of large-scale natural or man-made environmental emergencies, guarantee the rights of present and future generations to clean air and water, and protect citizens from environmental health hazards. Anticipating the problems of tomorrow is the only reasonable way to preserve and enhance our way of life, acting with initiative in full awareness of our collective responsibility”.[6]

The Arab Green Economy Initiative

The Green Economy Initiative in the UAE has also been influenced by the Arab Green Economy Initiative, which was presented for the first time by Najib Sa’ab, the Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), at a special session held during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which convened in Nairobi on February 21-24, 2011. According to Najib Sa’ab, the Arab Green Economy Initiative aims at “transitioning from virtual economy based on real estate and financial speculation and depletion of resources, to the real economy based on sustainable growth combined with productive investment which creates new job opportunities”. Najib Sa’ab said that the Arab development agendas are facing demanding challenges, as populations grow fast and rapid economic growth strain institutional capacities and natural resources, such as water. He added that “Arab economies are requested to provide gainful employment to tens of millions over the next 10 years, alleviate poverty, address food and water security risks, drive economic growth, and adapt to climate change”. Sa’ab emphasized that these challenges demand strong action by Arab governments guided by a bold vision and concluded that a shift to a green economy can bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and diversify national incomes, while maintaining social stability, cultural identity, and environmental sustainability.[7]

The AFED is regarded throughout the Arab world as the leading and the most influential and important regional environmental organization that has become the main source of credible information on the state of Arab environment and policy options. According to its website, the “Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is a not-for-profit regional non-governmental organization, grouping experts together with civil society, business community and media, to promote prudent environmental policies and programmes across the Arab region”. The AFED was officially established in Beirut on June 17, 2006, at the conclusion of a regional conference on Public Opinion and the Environment, organized by the Environment and Development magazine on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The AFED is based in Beirut and has been endorsed by the Arab League and the UNEP.[8]  

The Arab Green Economy Initiative has won the backing of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as other regional bodies, who have cooperated with the AFED to develop a joint Arab vision for green economy, which will be presented at Rio+20 Summit that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

In the meantime, in October 2011, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development conducted its fourth annual conference on Green Economy in a Changing Arab World, held in Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut. The conference called on Arab governments to allocate a higher priority to agricultural rural development; to introduce a policy shift towards water demand management and fair water tariffs; to adopt national and regional strategies for energy efficiency, demand-side management, cleaner energy, and renewable energy;  to introduce municipal zoning regulations; to develop a national industrial policy that provides appropriate and favorable institutional and regulatory framework for low-carbon industries and research and development (R&D) capabilities; to make use of green solutions in buildings; to make sustained investments in mass public transportation in Arab cities; to adopt a resource management approach to municipal solid waste; to promote investments in converting organic food waste into compost and biogas, as well as waste-to-energy strategies; to develop a package of policy instruments to implement sustainable tourism practices in travel, hospitality, and recreational services, as well as community-based cultural tourism; to help in nature conservation and to support local economies. The conference also called on regional organizations and governments to activate the Arab Environment Facility and establish regional green economy initiatives, covering: research and development, renewable energy solutions, sustainable communities, cleaner production, sustainable agriculture, and regional transport networks.[9]

Summary

The UAE is the first Arab country to launch the green economy initiative. This initiative, which falls under the UAE Vision 2021 and under the Arab Green Economy Initiative, seems to be a natural continuity to the recent green economy initiatives in the UAE, such as the building of the Masdar City, the first green city in the world; the investment in the creation of renewable energy sources, including nuclear energy; and the development of greenhouse and organic agriculture. The UAE has also become the center of green building in the Arab world. Therefore, it has been only natural for the UAE to launch the green economy initiative.

Hopefully, more Arab countries will soon join the UAE in launching the green economy initiative, which has a good potential in some countries to boost even more socio-economic and environmental progress while in other countries it has a good potential to solve many acute and difficult socio-economical and environmental security challenges facing the Arab world.

Thus, future possible implementation of the green economy initiative in more Arab countries might shift the whole regional economy throughout the Middle East and North Africa into a green economy, which is much more sustainable than the current economy.