Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rahal & Frem Launch Scientific Approach to Eco-Friendly Lebanese Industry

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Below is the official post-press conference statement sent from the office of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment to the press after discussing "The Survey of Unipak Tissue Mill’s Environmental Impact".  Read the statement بالعربي

The Lebanese Minister of Environment, HE Mohamad Rahal, and the President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Neemat Frem, held, in the presence of the representative of Unipak Tissue Mill, Roger Tanios, and the representative of the civil society in the Ministry of Environment, Rabih Salem, a joint press conference in the green hall of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, in order to launch a scientific approach on an eco-friendly industry and to announce the environmental impact audit project Unipak has consented to start soon.

Present at the conference were Assistant Resident Representative of United Nations Development Programme, Edgard Chehab, two deputies from the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Nicolas Nahas and Ziad Bekdach, the Director General of the association, Saad Al-Oueini, two members of the association, Omar Hallab and Chawki El Daccache, its Secretary Wassim Semaan, the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Responsible at Lebanon Chemicals Company, Antoine Aoun, the president of the municipality of Al-Barouk, Elie Nakhleh, and a group from the media.

First Speaker: Representative of Civil Society in the Ministry of Environment, Rabih Salem

“I am pleased to participate in this conference as a representative of civil society in the Ministry of Environment.

First, I would like to highlight a series of postulates about the industry and the environment. Then, I’ll allow myself to truthfully testify about the positive attitude shown by the industrial sector in dealing with the civil society’s demands.

Concerning the Postulates

National Industry is a vital creator of career opportunities for the Lebanese Labor force, and is an essential pillar of our Lebanese Economy. There are 130 to 160 thousand jobs available today in the Lebanese productive sectors.
Lebanese Industries contribute greatly to Lebanese economic growth; in 2010 they made an achievement in that field; as they continue to invest, they also continue to open further opportunities in front of the Lebanese youth.

The Industry is not an enemy to the environment. We, as civil society, do not at all consider it as such. It is an essential partner to our environmental journey, heavily loaded by the historical events our country has endured.
In that respect, we all adhere to one clear postulate: It is very important for the Industry to respect the Environment, and that a vital cooperation persists in that field.
Concerning the Facts

As citizens, we have long carried the motto of protecting the Lebanese environment and have long advocated for it; and as civil society, we have been operating as a lobby, influencing official and unofficial decisions, in order to let the civil society’s voice be heard and to scientifically and objectively highlight the facts, and not by any means to create a conflict with the industrial employers and the factories ‘owners.

We play a monitoring role, and are supportive of new strategies that allow the creation of new partnerships leading to tangible results.

In that respect, allow me to report to you the great willingness of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists to cooperate with us on various environmental files at hand; a thing that we really appreciate.

We should also be honest witnesses of the unfair and unjustified defamation campaigns some of the Lebanese Industries have been subjected to under the pretext of environment devastation.  These campaigns are highly condemned.

In fact, there are industries that have pioneered, and still do, approaches to environmental issues; their collaboration with the civil society, hasn’t however yielded positive results. I think we have a role to play in that field: we can do it by bringing views together and adopting scientific and objective approaches.

Finally, we regret to say that we haven’t in some instances, received the same kind of response from a number of industries, and we are extremely counting on the initiation of a positive cooperation.”

Salem added, “The industry has an environmental role and duty. Our environment is our national wealth and the industry is a vital pillar necessary for the preservation of such a wealth. 

I, as a monitor, can’t but praise the initiative of the president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Neemat Frem, and the proposal submitted by Unipak- Tissue Mill. It in fact, transcends the will to establish an environmental survey and assessment, to evolve into an honorific commitment to an eco-friendly industry that shall bring pride to all of us.”

[Next came the speeches of the representative of Unipak Tissue Mill, Roger Tanios
and the President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Neemat Frem]

Last but not least, HE Minister Mohamad Rahal hoped for the issuance of two decrees on the assessment and scrutiny of the factories and plants’ environmental impacts, already submitted to the Council of Ministers, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and the Association of Lebanese Industrialists.

Yet, the tyranny of the political files inside the Council of Ministers has swept over the living and environmental issues.

Rahal said: “I hope that these decrees will soon be issued by the new government; we had previously requested for the first time that the oil companies deliver an environmental assessment. We also have already started to work with a big number of Class A industrial companies in Lebanon, ones which are considered polluting.

We list as an example the cooperation that took place between the Ministry of Environment and the Lebanon Chemicals Company, which had committed itself to an audit. We have done this, in order to avoid being stuck in a clash, knowing that a great deal of the complaints is usually based on acts of revenge, conflicts, regional, personal and family divergences.

Thus, in order not to remain in a vicious cycle of actions, reactions, accusations and refutations, let a specialized company handle this assessment. This will relieve us all.

We have actually proceeded with Lebanon Chemicals Company, and we are heading towards the full execution of steps that will be requested by the scrutinizing company; a measure that is a relief for all: the manufacturing plant, the surrounding environment and its habitants.”

HE Rahal noted, “The most polluting of all industries is recycling. In my opinion, there is an environmental industrialist, and there is a non-environmental industrialist. Knowing that the environment is a joint responsibility that is shared by all parties, and in completion of what we have already started with the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, I hereby again place in the custody of Mr. Neemat Frem the decrees that have been submitted to the Council of Ministers for endorsement.

Apart from that, whoever says that the Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of Industry is able to solve this problem would be lacking honesty.”

Rahal also added, “Unipak is a class-A manufacturing plant in Lebanon. With it we shall complete the process. The plant will start a mandatory environmental audit enabling us to close the issue and refute the allegations. The working team and the special department at the Ministry of Environment will be monitoring the task.

In principle, we are not dealing with something that is 100% according to the rules, but at the same time we don’t have anything concrete regarding the defamation and allegations. In order to overcome this problem and in order to avoid talk, Unipak is willingly ready to undergo an audit of its plant’s impacts on the environment with one of the accredited companies.

This is the reason why we are here today. The Ministry of Environment has agreed to start an environmental scrutiny that compels both the ministry and Unipak to abide by the results and execute the steps needed, whatever the cost. I am sure that the results will be positive and satisfactory. The study requires several months in order to be completed. The company has already achieved a lot and has out passed many of its counterparts in that respect.

Finally, I conclude by quoting the late Pierre Gemayel: “If you cherish Lebanon, cherish its industry”.

By cooperating with each other, with the concerned ministries and with investors who are still struggling despite all obstacles, I think that such an issue can be resolved in a way that ensures the good of the environment, promotes our industry and brings some prosperity to Lebanon.”

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