Volume 5, No. 28, 29 July - August 2000
Land, a Prerequisite to Protect Environment (Editorial by Najib
and Environment (cover story)
Tourism in Al-Fujairah
Reservoir Discovered in Abu Dhabi
Waste Treatment Plant in Southern Lebanon
of Asir in Saudi Arabia
Cedars of Lebanon
Management in Vienna
& Envirotech Canada
of Environment Friendly Art Contest
and the Convention on Climate Change (by Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, Secretary
General of OPEC)
watch, 5 - Environment Forum, 10 - Arab Environment News, 14 -
World Environment News, 70 - Environment Market, 92 - Green Library,
94 - Calendar, 97 - Time for Action, 99.
Appropriate technology center for south
Editorial, issue 28-29, July/August 2000
By Najib Saab
As grand plans are being developed to rebuild south Lebanon, "international
sales representatives" from a variety of agencies are flocking the country
to promote their catalogue products and services, based on a pre-conceived
model of development. While international experience and financial support
are essential, development projects should be designed to suit the needs
of the people concerned, not the agendas of foreign experts, agencies
and their local associates. The reconstruction of the liberated south
should be seen as an opportunity to introduce integrated development
concepts, based on capacity building of the rural communities, and involving
people as real partners in planning and execution. This includes taking
environmental considerations into account at the planning stage, to
ensure that rush bandage solutions do not produce self-destructive effects
in the future.
The occupation had destroyed a lot of the natural features in southern
Lebanon. Every heavy bomb uprooted 72 cubic meters of soil. Explosives
bared the land in many locations, poisoned soil and underground water
resources, destroyed springs, demolished irrigation tanks and aqueducts,
and ruined archeological sites. The Israelis also dredged whole orchards
to facilitate military assaults and even stole tons of fertile soil.
Land mines remain the occupation's worst remnant, leaving behind hundreds
of thousands of land mines, traps and ammunition that have still not
been detonated, and whose clean-up remains a priority because they put
people's lives, animal and wild life in danger, and impede the development
of large areas of land.
Contrasting this grim picture, wars may have a positive effect on the
environment in some cases, since military operations hinder development
activities, thereby preserving the virginity of some areas. As we work
on repairing the environmental destruction of the occupation, we have
to prevent the assault of stone quarries and uncontrolled cement, chemical
and other factories, under the banners of economic development and job
However, does it
mean that in order to protect the environment, development must be stopped?
The answer is, definitely, no. The fact is that balanced development
protects the environment, as much as preserving the environment supports
development and the economy and creates sustainable jobs.
Southerners themselves have
to be a part of every development plan. They have to beware the legions
of "experts" who will flood the area, from every agency, organization
and government, to promote ready-made solutions. Outside experience
has to work hand in hand with the local residents and reach solutions
that are in accordance with their state of affairs and special needs.
The keyword here is to promote practical samples in rural development,
based on technologies appropriate for the area. The solution does not
lie in centralized plans and projects which alienate local communities;
it is to actually include the villagers in the planning process and
execution of rural development schemes. The government should also commit
to the creation of productive projects in the south which create sustainable
income opportunities, not temporary aid.
It is a fact that
most existing aid programs are based on providing ready made solutions
and equipment without helping to find local production venues that are
self sufficient, through training people and developing local resources.
This of course leads to continued dependency on others. Therefore, true
development cannot be achieved as long as the South does not have the
technological capacity to control its resources and use them to the
benefit of its inhabitants.
Most assistance projects at the time being are based on regarding local
societies as "receivers" only, and not "interactive". Even the term
"stake-holders" which was introduced by the United Nations agencies
in the last decade to reflect involvement of the populace, turned out
to portray them, again., as figures with no individual human identity.
Donor governments and organizations often regard rural development simply
as direct transmission of solutions and technologies, specified without
the participation of the beneficiaries. Therefore, most "technological
recipes" that have been adopted are not suited to the local inhabitant's
needs and cannot be implemented using the materials and skills available
Let's promote for the South a concept in appropriate technology different
from the typical practices, in the sense that it is not only satisfied
with specifying the urgent material needs, but surpasses that to define
the technological, natural and human resources available locally and
that could be transmitted effectively to suit the requirements of the
local society. If appropriate technological concepts are to be spread
among the people who desperately need them, that is the inhabitants
of rural areas, a local training system has to be developed and widely
spread, through which villagers can be rehabilitated technically and
administratively to take charge of appropriate technology projects themselves,
thereby bearing the responsibility of developing their societies. These
training activities have to be implemented inside the rural communities
with the participation of local residents at all stages.
enables the rural poor in underprivileged areas to develop and use technologies
and methods that allow them more control over resources and contribute
to long-term development for their societies. Those appropriate solutions
enable them to use local materials, skills and develop deep rooted traditions,
to create projects homogeneous with their environment. Since appropriate
technology depends on training people to be in charge of production,
it lacks the support of large commercial companies, which depend on
selling equipment and ready material to a consumer society. There is
a sort of silent agreement between large companies and the local feudal
powers to prevent the benefits of production resources from reaching
rural areas, so that the people remain controlled by political and economic
How can we put integrated rural development theories into action in
the South? The starting point is launching projects with the people's
participation, relying on developing local expertise and production
base, not on contingent help and first aid. To illustrate this approach,
some specific activities could be suggested:
- Establishing pilot centers to promote renewable energy from the sun,
wind, and biogas to heat water and generate power. This includes training
local technicians to build and maintain those systems. This also includes
establishing a research center for applications of alternative energy,
that attracts scientists and researchers to the heart of the South.
This has to be complimented by helping local technicians, mechanics
and small investors to establish workshops to produce solar heating,
drying and cooking devices, and building biogas digesters and wind turbines.
The Middle East Center for Appropriate Technology (MECTAT) has built
a pilot digester to produce biogas in Marj'eoun, where the organic wastes
of a chicken and cow farm and a greenhouse could be disposed to ferment.
Besides solving the farm's waste problem, the digester produced methane
gas, which is used to heat the greenhouse and generate electricity,
as well as using its remnants as organic fertilizer.
- Introducing organic farming methods that depend on integrated pest
management and natural fertilizers, and promoting the South's produce
as environmentally healthy. This attracts more customers and gives the
products a unique identity. Organic farming is now popular in Europe
and its produce is sold for a higher price than that which uses chemical
fertilizers and pesticides extensively. Achieving this goal can be done
by training the farmers to use organic farming technologies, and establishing
cooperatives to develop and sell the products under the logo: "Organic
products from the liberated South of Lebanon". A meeting of the German-Arab
Chamber of Commerce which I recently attended in Berlin has called on
Arab farmers to produce more organic products for export, in answer
to increasing public demand in Europe.
- Promoting small-scale food production, based on preserving and packaging
food appropriately, methods which could be applied successfully at the
level of small family plants. The solar dryer that was built last year
by MECTAT in Al-Ain (Baalbek), as a part of a YMCA project, is a good
example of an inexpensive appropriate technology that can support rural
food production and create income.
- Using appropriate methods for waste treatment, that suit the region's
social and natural characteristics, and provide work opportunities and
protect the environment. The waste treatment plant in the southern village
of Kfarseer is an example of a technology that was developed according
to the region's needs, and works efficiently operated by trained local
residents.. All the machinery for waste separation and composting was
be built locally, and the plant is capable of composting 5 tons of organic
waste daily, constituting around 70% of the total waste generated by
a community of 15,000. This successful endeavor could be repeated in
communities all over the South. A low-cost waste water treatment plant,
recently built by Mercy Corps in the southern Wazzani village, is yet
another example of an efficient technology using local material and
skills to solve a chronic environmental health problem.
- Investing in the unique natural characteristics of the South to develop
environmentally-friendly tourism, that can attract visitors from all
over the world. The liberated South can be transformed into an international
resort for eco-tourism.
Preserving the environment of south Lebanon requires, first, a detailed
survey for the current situation, to identify sensitive areas and establish
priorities and long-term work plan. In addition, a serious environmental
impact assessment study should be imposed on any major scheme or project
being prepared for the South, so as not to demolish the environment
by high profile projects geared to public relations and instant visible
results. Hence, our proposal to establish a center for appropriate technology
in the south, that trains the citizens in developmental skills and protects
the environment at the same time.
Traditional development policies have underestimated the potential of
local societies, and deemed them incapable of taking charge of their
destiny. They presented them with packaged solutions that had, in the
best of cases, the effect of temporary pain relievers, causing these
policies to fail. We should demand a new approach, based on developing
human resources and providing local communities with the means to be
productive. This is the only way to stop being at the mercy of aid agencies
and local feudalism, and ultimately to become their own masters.
We have reclaimed the south, so let's preserve the environment and support
the population to become productive, to prove that we deserve the land.
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