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Green association in Libya determined to save remaining forests

Friends of the Tree planting a tree   -  
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A group of environmentalists in Libya are hoping to save its remaining green spaces from logging, development, and the impacts of climate change.

The "Friends of the Tree" association works to raise awareness about green areas around the capital Tripoli that are quickly disappearing because of drought, human activity, and desertification.

"Man has destroyed forests" and much of the vegetation, said the group's leader Khalifa Ramadan, who has been working in agriculture and gardening for 40 years.

The group, which includes agronomists, horticulturists, and volunteers, hopes to be able to be able to revive a "green belt" project from the 1950s and 1960s that died out during decades of dictatorship, war, and turmoil.

"We have to raise awareness about tree development and protection. We need to strengthen the relationship between humans and trees. Trees have economic, environmental, health, nutritional, and commercial value. This means that taking care of them is vital," said Ramadan.

Farmer Abdul Rahman Al-Taher is very conscious of how precious water is as he walks among his plants on his farm outside the city.

Rainfall is scarce in Libya, a largely desert country, and drought, human activity, and desertification has made things worse.

"When it comes to water in Libya we don't know how to preserve it generally. We consume a lot of water. In Tripoli too. Secondly, the municipal authorities have no plans for desalination and water purification," he said.

Protection of the environment has been impacted by the ongoing instability in the country, but while the Agricultural Police unit is ill-equipped to deal with all the challenges, it says it has had some success.

"The green belt has been the target of numerous violations in the last period. The head of the unit formed teams to seize back the misappropriated land. Of course, they had a big role in this, and we recovered all of the land, which amounted to about 8,500 hectares," said its spokesperson, General Fawzi Abugualia.

With Libya one of the world’s most water-stressed countries, the "Friends of the Tree" association says reviving the green belt would "stabilise soils, temper the climate, clean the air and attract rain".

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