<img alt=“ICARDA landscape.jpg” align=right src=“http://blogs.nature.com/houseofwisdom/images/ICARDA%20landscape.jpg” width=“280” height=“209” />As the world celebrates World Environment Day 2011, most eyes are still on the upheavals going on in the Arab World. Autocratic rules are falling, people ares struggling as they rebuild their nations scratch up into modern democracies.
More often than not, other important issues suffer during these stressing times. In Yemen, international researchers are worried about the fate of the Socotra Archipelago, a group of islands south of the poorest Arab state which are one of the richest locations for biodiversity in the world.
After the protests erupted in Yemen, Western countries pulled their researchers from Socotra. This threatened the fragile environment protection work that was going on there as researchers were scared that systems they had put in place over the years were falling apart.
The problem is that post-revolution, when everyone is busy licking their wounds and rebuilding their nations, the environment is often put on the back burner, at least for a while. Even during revolutions survival becomes the focus of the revolutionaries. Take Libya for example, the environment is, understandably, the last thing on the mind of the Libyans now.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, “Forests – Nature At Your Service”, could not be truer in the Arab world than in Lebanon, Syria and Morocco. Thousand of years old cedar trees in these countries are more threatened than every before due to illegal logging. Environmentalists predict that a business-as-usual scenario could see the mountain ranges in these countries lose all their cedar cover in a number of years.
Widespread corruption often comes in the way of protection, making it harder to protect these forests which play an important role in preventing soil erosion and flooding.
On the other hand, the recent revolution in Egypt might have had a positive effect on environment and preservation. Young people decided to become proactive after the revolution that ousted Mubarak in solving the ongoing dispute between Egypt and southern countries on the River Nile.
For several years, the government has sidelined the problem, which poses a critical water threat to the populous Arab nation. After the revolution, delegates of young people and some of the political parties traveled to the countries involved in the dispute for discussions about how to reach a win-win situation.
The truth is, environment preservation is not optional anymore, it has become a matter of survival and the sooner the Arab nations start considering climate change, biological diversity and pollution more seriously, the better the outcomes are for the region after getting rid of the decades-old autocratic regimes that have for so long held it back.