Flyways: Birds have No boundary! Let’s create a safe flyway for Migratory Soaring Birds

By Bassima Khatib

Lebanon lies on a strategic position: on the second most important flyway in the world between Europe & Asia downward to Africa in Autumn, and backwards in spring. More than 400 species have been recorded in Lebanon, including 37 species of migratory soaring birds that passes twice over Lebanon.

Migratory soaring birds depend on thermals “Hot current” for their smooth migration from one place to another. As thermals are developed only on land, MSBs has to pass over terrestrial areas during their migration through specific areas called “bottlenecks” like funnels.

Moving along specific flyways, and identified bottlenecks, MSBs are crying for our help and support from threats that opposes their flyway. These threats include; indiscriminate illegal hunting, poisoning, wind energy, electrocution, waste management.

Indiscriminate Illegal Hunting

According to BirdLife regional study in 2015, Lebanon has the fourth rank as blackspot for IKBs (2,600,000 birds killed per year). IKBs is one of the main threats for birds undermining all conservation efforts. Hunters shoot everything that flies, along the whole year, using all possible tools to attract flying birds. Hunting is a socio-economic habit embedded in our culture, strengthened by the shooting habits adopted during the civil war by young generation.

New Hunting law has been issued in 2004, and all application decrees developed by year 2014. Hunting season has been opened in September 2017 after 22 years of hunting ban in the country. Time is now for law enforcement!

Now is a milestone for hunting management in Lebanon. The President, General Aoun, a military man who remembers devastating impact of civil war and killing on the Lebanese citizens reacted directly. Identifying similarities between birds and Lebanese citizen, in diversity, migration,….President Aoun called for a “Peace treaty….between man and nature,….between man and birds…..in order to provide safe flyway for migrating birds over Lebanon…..”.

The President speech created a rolling effect….a national committee was created by his special advisor for Environmental issues, Ms. Claudine Aoun, where SPNL is represented; a national conference organized by SPNL where all concerned stakeholders participated collaboratively in developing a road map and an action plan against Illegal Killing of birds-IKBs; Road map and action plan endorsed at highest levels: by presidency office, Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Environment during September 2017 events.

Recently, SPNL, MECSH, are coordinating with CABS for the third year having missions to Lebanon during September/October to identify, record violations & follow up with ISF (Ministry of Interior) & Ministry of Justice for prosecution. e.g. in September 2019, 160 shooters have been arrested for prosecution.

Poisoning

Agriculture is an important economic sector for the livelihood of people. Intensification and overuse of pesticides leads to pollution of soil, water, prey,…Thus, leading to poisoning of MSBs along the flyway.

Data is insufficient; but incidences of dead MSBs in Qaroun lake due to pollution has been recorded. Efforts should concentrate on awareness, law enforcement for mis-use of illegal pesticides, and promotion of good agricultural practices.

Wind energy

Renewable energy (RE) can contribute to solving some of the challenges of the Lebanese electricity system. Lebanon’s government promised in COP15 that by 2020, 12% of our energy will come from renewable sources. focuses on three main pathways to achieve the target. First by increasing wind energy production to reach 2.06% of energy demand by 2020, second by increasing solar energy production to meet 4.2% of energy demand and increasing biomass use reaching 2.5% of energy demand by 2020. The remaining renewable energy capacity will be met by new and existing hydropower plants. In 2016, Solar power provided 0.26% of our total energy consumption, and hydroelectric was at 3%. This year, solar will reach 0.35%, and by 2021, 3 solar farms and 3 wind farms will be operational across Lebanon.

The threat of wind energy is fast approaching in Lebanon. The potential regions for wind energy overlap with the important bottlenecks and flyways for MSBs migration. 3 wind farms will be operational soon in Akkar – entry point for MSBs flyway, and bids for other 4 wind farms has been announced.

SPNL is not against renewable energy needed for sustainable development; but impact on MSBs depend on location, orientation, operation,….and implementation of mitigation measures during migration climax.

Electrocution

Collision with power lines and associated structures is a major cause of death and injury to MSBs and major economic losses accrue from the ensuing power cuts. Data is still lacking on the impact of high powerlines on MSBs; but high powerline structures are available along the flyway routes with minimal protection measures. Serious scientific should be a high priority to identify scope and impact of high powerlines on MSBs.

Waste management

Open dumps are widely spread in Lebanon, and large amounts of exposed waste attract scavenging birds including soaring raptors. Visiting birds can ingest toxic substances and frequently become entangled in plastic, wire, and other debris, or are injured by metal scrap or fire.

Sufficient data is lacking in Lebanon on the scope and impact of waste management on MSBs, but incidences has been reported.

Birds are beautiful creatures who has no borders. We share the responsibility to protect them and provide safe flyway for their migration.

Let’s work together collaboratively for their safety and creating safe haven for them!

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