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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 5 - Major Environmental Issues

Risks (I): Forest Fire, Mass Movements and Human Activities

Chadi Abdallah

Texte intégral

1Several types of risks have been under growing scrutiny in Lebanon, among others because the on-going climatic trends could greatly increase their number and scale. Torrential rains may thus lead to an increase in the number and impact of the floods and mass movements which already affect the country, while a rise in temperatures and drought episodes are strongly associated with an increase in the number and scale of forest fires.

From forest to suburban fires?

2Between 1960 and 2010, 35% of the wooded area may have been subjected to significant degradations. The activities of forest clearing may have played a major role in this, but forest fires have also contributed to it, attracting attention from public institutions and the NCSR, which has launched several studies on this topic. The only available data series containing records over a long period are the ones gathered about the missions of the Lebanese Civil Defense, their number per Civil Defense center and information about the type of affected areas, as well as some attempts at mapping burnt areas based on satellite imagery. It is thus not possible to precisely map the locations of forest fires over a long period, but these data series still reveal some trends.

3Each year, between 8,000 and 16,000 interventions are conducted by the Civil Defense in relation to forest fires: according to an estimate produced by the NCSR, on average, 1,200 hectares are burnt yearly, that amounting to 0.1% of the Lebanese territory. Areas covered by low vegetation have been the most affected. In Mount Lebanon, the country’s most wooded region, fires have more often affected forest land. In the southern, eastern and northern regions, particularly in the Akkar, the teams have had to intervene in agricultural areas on more occasions. Several factors may explain the recurrence of these fires, especially overgrazing, wood gathering, urbanization in the form of leapfrog development affecting rural areas, and the reduction of agricultural areas to the benefit of low and dry vegetation, attesting the role played by human activities in the rise of these phenomena. The mapping of the areas exposed to fire hazards produced by the NCSR in 2015, presented here by caza, brings to light the fact that the most affected areas are located in the periphery of the urban areas of Beirut and Tripoli. This leads researchers to warn of a new danger: the occurrence of fires in suburban and urban areas.

Figure V-6: Impacts and risks related to forest fires

Figure V-6: Impacts and risks related to forest fires

Figure V-7: Mass movements in Fater, Mount Lebanon (source: Chadi Abdallah, 2013)

Figure V-7: Mass movements in Fater, Mount Lebanon (source: Chadi Abdallah, 2013)

4Mass movements have not been mapped on a national scale, but several studies have shown the scope and diversity of these phenomena. More than 3,500 landslides and 6,000 block, rock and debris falls have been recorded. On average, they may cause financial losses approximately amounting to 10 to 15 million US$ per year. These movements have sometimes been devastating: in March 1992, an avalanche caused a landslide that destroyed several houses and killed 20 people in Hazerta, near Zahleh. The example of Fater in Mount Lebanon shows that these hazards are concentrated in specific places, including near housing units and diverse built structures.

5Various factors contribute to the occurrence and multiplication of mass movements. They are sometimes linked to exceptional events like avalanches and earthquakes such as in 1956. They may also be caused by torrential rains, the number of which has increased, and by human activities. The construction of roads and buildings, quarrying and the development of irrigation systems, which change the water flow and flow regime, may all contribute to them and have not yet been the subject of any regulation taking into account the issue of mass movements.

Figure V-8: Mass movements recorded in Lebanon in 2010

Figure V-8: Mass movements recorded in Lebanon in 2010

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure V-6: Impacts and risks related to forest fires
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13270/img-1.png
Fichier image/, 206k
Titre Figure V-7: Mass movements in Fater, Mount Lebanon (source: Chadi Abdallah, 2013)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13270/img-2.png
Fichier image/, 1,1M
Titre Figure V-8: Mass movements recorded in Lebanon in 2010
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13270/img-3.png
Fichier image/, 22k

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