Evergreen no more: Lebanon's woodlands at risk as citizens turn to logging to keep warm

Trees in Lebanon
13 January, 2022
Lebanon’s fuel crisis threatens a wide range of nature reserves and treasured trees as people resort to chopping firewood to keep them warm. Conservationists warn that this new trend may have disastrous consequences for Lebanon's flora and fauna.

Hundreds of Lebanese have been cutting trees for warmth as a heating alternative to diesel amid the spike in prices of fuel and the fall in the Lebanese Lira rate.

Whilst Lebanon is known for its richness in cedars and ancient trees, this distinction is now under threat in the hands of a suffering population desperate to stay warm or make a living out of selling wood logs.

Towns and villages in Lebanon have witnessed the disappearance of oak, lemon, olive, and walnut trees as people carry their mechanical saw and sharp axe to cut them down.

"Many Lebanese now find affording fuel a luxury in the country, with only the wealthy able to avoid illegal and environmentally harmful methods"

Although this is not a new method of heating for many Lebanese, as traditionally many have spent their summer chopping wood for the winter, recently the percentage of households transforming their heating systems to options where wood logs are used instead of fuel has drastically increased.

Fouad Rashid, owner of Martelo, a distributor of stoves and chimneys in Lebanon tells The New Arab that the demand for heating systems where wood fires and charcoals are used instead of fuel has spiked significantly as people are desperate to find a cheaper alternative.

The price of one fuel barrel used to be 120 thousand Lebanese pounds, but it currently costs over five million pounds if available.

Evergreen No More: Lebanese citizens turn to logging
Evergreen no more: Lebanese citizens turn to logging
Trees are disappearing in many towns as people continue to cut them down for wood fire 

Nijad Saed Eddine, an agriculture engineer in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the largest nature reserve in Lebanon told The New Arab that the minimum consumption of each household in mount Lebanon is about a thousand litres of gasoline, equivalent to five barrels of diesel for heating annually.

Fearing the next unknown, many have cut dozens of trees from Lebanon’s most green places. This includes several villages in Mount Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

The boom in the cutting of trees has become out of control as the government turns a blind eye to dealing with the remarkable price of fuel in the market.

Municipalities in all governorates prevent the cutting of forest trees to preserve the environment, and some have begun to conduct patrols and are now taking certain measures to control the situation.

This has not been fully implemented and rules have not been followed as people are stealing, or have been targeting the forests at certain times.

Some municipalities may have been successful in preventing the chopping of trees, but many like Walid have not hesitated to chop trees in inherited lands.

Evergreen no more: Lebanese citizens turn to logging
Municipalities in all governorates prevent the cutting of forest trees to preserve the environment

Walid Hassanieh, desperate to secure materials for heating to keep his family warm has resulted in cutting oak, olive, and walnut trees from lands aged over 30 years inherited from his grandfather.

With sorrow, Hassanieh told The New Arab: “My grandpa left me these pieces of treasure but unfortunately desperation for wood fire has made me chop everything off.”

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Many Lebanese now find affording fuel a luxury in the country, with only the very wealthy able to avoid illegal and environmentally harmful methods.

Concerned environmental experts have turned to adopting new methods to raise awareness and provide a less harmful alternative to the environment and those targeted forests.

Shouf Biosphere Reserve, located in Mount Lebanon has developed a new sustainable method to replace firewood's and diesel.

Rodayna Raydan is a Lebanese British journalism graduate from Kingston University in London covering Lebanon.

Follow her on Twitter: @Rodayna_462