Under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment, Mohammad al-Machnouk, and with the cooperation of the Ehmej Development Association, the Faculty of Sciences of the Saint-Joseph University (USJ) and the municipality of Ehmej inaugurated the natural site of El-Dichar on the Sunday 24th May 2015. The project Determination of Important Areas for Plants and Creation of Micro-Reserves to Conserve Rare or Endemic Species in Lebanon was funded (grant number 63257) by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) which is a global program providing funds to non-governmental organisations to help protect biodiversity hotspots, Earth’s most biologically rich yet threatened areas. The project and the studies on the flora were directed by Doctor Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat who serves as Director of the Faculty of Science’s Department of Life and Earth Sciences at USJ.
During his speech, the mayor of Ehmej, Nazih Abi Semaan affirmed that the municipality developed a management plan to preserve the green areas and the biodiversity of the region. He mentioned for instance the cooperation between Ehmej and Jouzour Louban, an association performing reforestation, and insisted on the fact that the different tree species constitute the identity of the region
The vice-president of Ehmej Development Association, Aida Gebrayel, insisted on the importance of such environmental projects that were benefiting directly to the ecotourism of the village and to the local community as it galvanized the economic activity by attracting visitors and creating job opportunities for the youth.
Dr. Bou Dagher Kharrat then related her personal chronicle with Iris sofarana, a species endemic to Mount Lebanon and the way she was brought to contribute to the preservation of this species. Indeed, El-Dichar shelters one of the last populations of Iris sofarana, and was designated natural site for this purpose. Furthermore she explained the biological richness of the region and the urge to protect this threatened biodiversity.
The minister of Environment, Mohammad Al-Machnouk, expressed his delight about the inauguration of the natural site and revealed to the audience a future project aiming at the creation of a National Council for Natural Reserves in Lebanon. It aims at organizing a national management plan for all protected areas in Lebanon and to try to connect them with continuous green corridors. Finally he called the civil society, associations and universities, to cooperate together for the environmental development of the country.
Finally, all the attendees went to El Dichar for the last part of the inauguration. The flag of Lebanon and the flag of El-Dichar Natural Site were hoisted at the entrance of the natural site just before contemplating the ephemeral flowering of the rare iris. A paper chase was organized in El Dichar to allow the participants to discover the biodiversity of the site in a playful way.
Author: Hicham Elzein, project coordinator of the CEPF funded project Determination of Important Areas for Plants and Creation of Micro-Reserves to Conserve Rare or Endemic Species in Lebanon.