Towards a National Park in the Upper Beirut River Valley

A new approach to protection in Lebanon will be adopted in the Upper Beirut River Valley, establishing a natural park

Today, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) and the municipality of Ras El Matn in collaboration with Al Matn Organization for Environment & Sustainable Development (MESD) organized an event entitled “Towards a National Park in the Upper Beirut River Valley”.
The event was held under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Environment, Dr. Nasser Yassine, and in the presence of His Excellency MP Hadi Abou El Hassan.
The participants were mayors from the municipalities, focal points from the villages, and local NGOs among them the President of the Upper Matn Municipalities Union Karim Sarkis, Vice President of the Union Waseem Abu Saeed, Former Union President Marwan Salha, Director General of the SPNL Asaad Serhal, Director General of AFDC Sawsan Abu Fakhr Al-Din, Chairman of the National Committee of IUCN Fadi Ghanem, Global Environment Facility Coordinator in Lebanon Adnan Melki, Head of the Lebanese Environmental Forum Malek Ghandour, Representative of the Beirut office in the United Cities and Governments Organization Samer Abu Shakra, Representative of MUBS University Fadi Abu Raslan, President of the Broumana Hiking Group, Kamal Abu Samra, Representative of the Moawad Foundation Fouad Habashi, Mayor of Al-Abadiyah and the mayors of Shuwit, Al-Hilalia ,Ruwaisat_Al-Balout, Qubai, Al-Shabaniyah, Jawar_Al-Haouz, Tarshish, and Deir_Al-Harf. The representatives of the municipalities of Hammana, Btakhniyeh, Al-Khariba, and Qartada. In addition to a number of mayors of the upper Matn villages, associations and clubs.

During the event, several interventions were made by the SPNL team, stakeholders, and important figures:

  • SPNL Team
  • Introduction to Natural Park with Mrs. Rania Khalil: explaining what is a natural park, what is the definition, impacts and benefits, outputs, and how to proceed in the Upper Beirut River Valley: where we are working, aims, approaches, and steps to take.
  • Conservation Values of the Upper Beirut River Valley with  Yara Alchammas: during her presentation, she exposed the importance of the biodiversity in the area that will be a natural park, the unique species that exist, the environment and biodiversity there, and details and information about many species to protect.

2- Speeches about this initiative:

  • Ras El Matn Mayor:

Mr. Raja Abou Reslan, started by welcoming the participants and expressing his appreciation for each one. He then underlined the role of the municipality of Ras El Matn and municipalities in this initiative and how they should be engaged to have a successful establishment of this very important project for the region.

  • SPNL (Birdlife Lebanon) General Director and Birdlife International Chairman of the Middle East Region, Mr. Assad Serhal:

Exposed SPNL work and how the idea of a natural park has come to life from the unique Hima approach that is adopted, he focused on the importance of the connectivity between everyone to transform this idea on the ground and make it successful like the Hima. Mr. Serhal also discussed the importance of this region for birds and biodiversity and how the protection of this valley will add value to the region and its biodiversity. He ended by asking to note the date of this gathering, which will be a new phase in the protection of nature in Lebanon.

  • Chairman of the National Committee of the IUCN, Fadi Ghanem: underlined the importance of the work together between NGOs, municipalities, and ministries for each environmental initiative. This gathering is a way to show the engagement of all parties and the union of all towards this establishment.


  • President of the Federation of the Higher Matn Municipalities, Karim Sarkis:

He underlined the importance of support from the government for the region and showed his gratitude to the minister of environment. He talked about the work that is being done in the region despite the current difficult situation and how the work is continuing with this initiative. He was happy about the connectivity that we can see between all parties and that this link will lead to success.

  • MP Hadi Abou ElHassan:

Started by explaining how much Ras El Matn an environmental village with a unique biodiversity is. This project reflects the image of this region and the protection work in it, since the environment reflects a clean image, and that’s how we work. We hope the government will let us work and present the best for our country, while we ensure that we will work on planning and continue our efforts for protection and the environment. We know that this initiative is the responsibility of all of us.

  • Minister of Environment, Dr. Nasser Yassine :

Dr. Yassine talked about the importance of a natural park and how it is a way to link humans and nature and is a way to increase the attachment of locals. He added on explaining how much this region is a special place: socially, culturally, and environmentally. This initiative is very important and a way of protecting this important biodiversity with all its unique species. Moreover, he explained and underlined that all this will not be successful without a clear plan to follow, an agreed-upon step for success. And this initiative needs the efforts of all concerned parties to collaborate and act quickly to secure the next steps.

  • Testimonials from local NGOs:
  • MESD with Mrs. Ghada Ghazal: The Upper Beirut River Valley is special for all of Lebanon, not just the coal miners here. Mrs. Ghazal discussed how this project will be a continuation of all the work they have done in Ras El Matn, from the establishment of a local product brand with La Bokra, cleaning the Hima, opening trails, elaborating a solid waste management plan in Ras El Matn, and reforestation.
  • AFDC with Mrs. Howeida Abou Chakra Makarem: she gave a testimonial on her work at AFDC and how they are working to protect this region with many activities: reforestation, cleaning, trail management, etc. She also talked about how working on the ground gave her confidence, how she became a working woman, not only at home, and how she used her skills in this work.

And at the end, a long discussion took place about how to proceed with the creation of such a park and the plan of action going forward. It was very essential to hear different opinions about the work and the plan that should be our next steps so we can work all together for the success of this initiative.

This event is very important; it is the start of a long road of dedication, work, achievements, planning, and communication. Together, SPNL, Ras El Matn municipality, and the Ministry of Environment are envisioning the creation of Lebanon’s first national park, with a big vision for the region.