Hunting season begins in Lebanon ... and the result is 25 million empty cartridges in the mountains

A young boy collecting cartridges in Keserwan. (Photo: NNA)
Updated 20 November 2017

Hunting season begins in Lebanon ... and the result is 25 million empty cartridges in the mountains

BEIRUT: No one in Lebanon can estimate the number of hunters who go to the high mountains during the migration season to kill birds, but every year, environmentalists collect around 25 million empty bullet cartridges dumped in the fields and mountains of Lebanon.
“Lebanon is the second largest natural migration route for birds traveling from Europe to Asia during September, November and December,” said Pierre Jalkh, head of the Lebanese Association for Shooting and Hunting.
“The most transient birds that do not settle in Lebanon are common ringed plovers and flying quails, in addition to sparrowhawks, which cross Lebanese airspace in September and are internationally protected, making it illegal to hunt this species,” he said.
The hunting season causes so much chaos, which the Ministry of Environment, municipalities and internal security forces try to control and organize every year.
Jalkh could not provide the exact number of hunters, but pointed out that “15,000 hunters underwent assessments at certified hunting clubs in Lebanon, and those are the only ones of which we know.”
Hunters boast about their achievements by posting their shocking photos on social media platforms, which depict hundreds of hunted birds spread on their cars’ fronts and roofs. These scenes have angered environmental activists and driven them to find ways to raise awareness about bird protection.
Rawad Rizk, project manager of “LIVE Lebanon,” a UN Development Programme project, does not have a close estimate of the number of hunters because thousands practice this hobby without a license, but he estimated that there were between 100,000 and 600,000 hunters.
“The idea of involving Lebanese expatriates in national and rural development in Lebanon was launched in 2009, and the LIVE Lebanon project was the link for securing funds from Lebanese communities abroad and from the private sector in Lebanon,” he said.
“The ‘Collecting Cartridges’ project is part of the Youth Volunteer Programme and was an idea proposed through one of the program’s websites, so we launched it this year under the auspices of the National Commission for Lebanese Women and in cooperation with LIVE Lebanon,” he said. “One hundred young men and women volunteered for this project.
“We took our mission in a mountainous area in the Keserwan district starting Sunday morning. We waited until all hunters were done and left the fields before we spent around five hours — perhaps less — collecting a quarter of a million cartridges in an area not larger than a football pitch,” he said.
Volunteers are preparing for a similar campaign for collecting cartridges in the Beqaa, where hunters practice their hobby in different open and vast areas.
People who pass by the hunting areas in Beqaa, especially in the town of Chtaura, can track the activity of shops selling hunting weapons and ammunition even to those who do not have a license for carrying arms.
Jalkh explained that “hunting is governed by rules and regulations, the first of which is that a hunter must be at least 18, must obtain a license for carrying weapons and another for hunting, and must have health insurance.
“Certified hunting clubs train hunters on using rifles and bullets,” he added, pointing out that “accidents caused by hunting mistakes, although declining in number, still exist and mostly include hunters hurting themselves or others because they do not know how to use rifles.”
He also stressed that “hunters without licenses are subject to legal prosecution.”
“The law requires hunters to be at least 500 meters away from any residence,” he added. “The law also states that a hunter is only allowed to hunt a maximum of 50 common ringed plovers and 25 flying quails, while hunting sparrowhawks is illegal because the species is internationally fully protected.”
When the volunteers embarked on collecting empty cartridges, some hunters joined in while others left the area, leaving behind thousands of cartridges and dead sparrowhawks dumped on the ground.
Rizk described the mission as a tough one, “especially because thousands of the cartridges were planted in the ground, which will pollute the soil and underground water.
“We are currently working with mechanical engineering students at several Lebanese universities to devise a machine that separates plastic from copper and iron, which are the materials of which bullet cartridges are made, in order to recycle the plastic,” he said. “And we will fund the best project submitted to us.”
Dozens of large bags filled with collected cartridges will be stored in a safe warehouse provided by the Federation of Keserwan Municipalities in Jounieh.
According to Rizk, the “Cartridge Collecting” project will continue for years to come, and its cost won’t be specified. “The more money we collect, the better we work until we reach a point where we force hunters to clean the areas of their cartridges, especially since hunters can reuse a cartridge by refilling it with gunpowder and small iron balls, which we highly encourage,” he said.
Around a month ago, the “LIVE Lebanon” project carried out a campaign for cleaning the sea. One hundred and seventeen Lebanese, American and Venezuelan divers volunteered to lift a ton of waste from an area stretching between the Tabarja beach to Enfeh in the north. It included plastic waste, glass, tires and bags.
Moreover, a project with the slogan “Forget the Hole” managed last year to fill 6,000 holes in the ground in 92 Lebanese districts within eight months. “There are still many holes in Lebanon waiting for funding to be filled,” Rizk said.


Schools in Lebanon reopen, other sectors gradually

Mask-clad shoppers walk past shops in Beirut's Hamra street on May 7, 2020, as Lebanon gradually eases its lockdown measures against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2020

Schools in Lebanon reopen, other sectors gradually

  • The death toll in Lebanon has reached 1,000, while the total number of confirmed cases has jumped to more than 126,000 cases, at a rate of more than 1,200 cases per day during the past two weeks

BEIRUT: The Ministry of Education will reopen schools for integrated education starting on Monday.

This comes after two weeks of closure and amid objections from civil bodies and commentators working in the public field.

Hilda El-Khoury, director of the counseling and guidance department at the Ministry of Education, said: “Returning to education through the combined method will be within the preventive measures that were previously approved.”

However, the Civil Emergency Authority in Lebanon said: “The decision will lead to a health crisis affecting the most vulnerable people, namely children and underage students, especially with the number of cases not declining since before the closure, and with the noticeable increase in the daily number of deaths.”

The Ministerial Committee for Combating the Coronavirus has meanwhile maintained its decision to impose a partial curfew in Lebanon but amended its implementation hours. Instead of starting at 5:00 p.m. each evening, the curfew now begins at 11 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m., provided that restaurants, cafes and malls close at 10:00 pm.

During its meeting on Sunday, the committee decided to restore vehicle movement on roads but maintained the suspension of social activities, cinemas and nightclubs.

Health minister for Lebanon’s caretaker government, Hamad Hassan, said that the adoption of the strategy, permitting odd/even license plate vehicles on the roads on alternate days, had doubled the number of COVID-19 cases due to people’s reliance on shared transportation.

He said: “The rate of commitment to complete closure in all Lebanese territories has reached 70 percent over the past two weeks.”

Hassan said that the aim of the measures was to alleviate the pressure on the medical and nursing staff.

“The required medical measures, completed in terms of expanding the hospitals’ capacity to accommodate the COVID-19 cases, have been completed,” he said.

The death toll in Lebanon has reached 1,000, while the total number of confirmed cases has jumped to more than 126,000 cases, at a rate of more than 1,200 cases per day during the past two weeks.

Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri, an infectious disease specialist and member of the emergency committee on coronavirus, regretted the lack of plans for the period following the closure due to a lack of coordination on COVID-19 between state departments.

He said that this had kept the country in a state of confusion and chaos while citizens paid a high price in light of the difficult economic and living conditions.

Al-Bizri said: “The repeated closures are unsuccessful, and one of their consequences is the decline in economic activity, the life cycle, and the living conditions.”

Meanwhile, video footage of Health Minister Hamad Hassan went viral on Saturday. It showed him cutting a cake for the birthday of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in the open market in Baalbek city.

The video was circulated on social media and caused a scandal following a similar episode in which the same minister was involved months ago.

The people of his town in the Bekaa met him during the peak of the spread of coronavirus, and he danced among them carrying a sword. Some people carried him on their shoulders and other social distancing measures were also not observed.

The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-Clubs and Pastries has called in the past few days for the sector to reopen to save what is left of it.

In a statement issued on the eve of the ministerial committees’ meeting, the syndicate called on the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, to “adopt a health-economic approach for the benefit of the rest of the sector.”

The syndicate added: “The sector has fully fulfilled its duties with regard to the preventive measures.

“We have also advanced a new approach related to the capacity of institutions, whereby chairs and tables are reallocated to accommodate only 50 percent of the original capacity, guaranteeing that no overcrowding will occur.

“We insist on adopting this as a new measure, and we discussed it with the minister of interior, and the sector will reopen its doors on Monday morning while remaining committed to all procedures and laws.”

Bechara Asmar, the head of the General Labor Union, called for the reopening of the country “because it secures a return to the economic cycle during the month of the holidays, protects workers, employees and daily-paid workers in all private, public, and official sectors, and preserves their livelihood at a time when they risk having their wages reduced, starving to death or dying of the coronavirus.”