Environmental challenges in the Southern Mediterranean: reporting from a solutions journalism angle

June 10, 2021

To mark World Environment Day, four reports take a “solutions journalism” approach to investigating crucial ecological issues in three Southern Mediterranean countries: Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.

Given the scale of poaching, what are the solutions to protect Lebanon’s fauna and biodiversity?

Poaching currently constitutes a major threat to biodiversity in Lebanon. Hadeel Iskandar’s report, published by the digital media platform, Daraj, highlights this alarming situation in order to raise public awareness about the urgency of putting measures in place to protect the fauna in a country that is also facing many environmental challenges.
The activists and experts questioned all stress the major role played by wild animals in maintaining environmental balance. The main solution to poaching consists of work to inform people and raise their awareness, with a view to changing their attitudes towards these matters. The proliferation of monitoring initiatives such as the one led by the Environmental Observatory contributes to this information and awareness work by facilitating the compilation of a register of instances of abuse and threats to fauna in order to counter them better.
The report also touches on the essential role played by the media in changing people’s thinking. In the view of Mounir Abi Saad, president of the Wildlife Information Centre, local media outlets have long engaged in negative stereotyping of certain wild animals and have promoted their eradication. He believes the image of poachers is changing in the media narrative and that this will help foster a change in practices.


What are the solutions for Lebanon in dealing with the consequences of climate change?

Lebanon is one of the countries most threatened by the consequences of climate change in the Southern Mediterranean. The report by journalist Pascale Sawma, published by Daraj, relies on witness accounts to detail the main threats to Lebanon due to global warming: water scarcity and the appearance of new species of insects endangering the cedar forests. These developments, stimulated by the frequency and recurrence of harmful weather events such as late winters, drought and the decline in rainfall and snow on Mount Lebanon, have a negative impact on the economy, health and tourism in the country.
In the face of drought, Habib Maalouf, a university professor and environmental expert, emphasizes the need to introduce public policies that encourage the optimisation of water resources, for example by replacing dams with systems that allow better storage and conservation of groundwater. Surface water, exposed to high temperatures linked to global warming, is in fact subject to evaporation. The report also stresses that these measures must by backed up by systems for putting an end to corruption in water management, eradicating slums and better managing wastewater. Researchers also emphasize the leading role that local authorities should play in this governance.

Solutions for the people of Asyut, faced with the pollution caused by a chemical fertiliser plant

In Asyut, an Egyptian city 320 km south of Cairo, the pollution generated by a chemical fertiliser plant has caused much damage to the environment and to people’s health. There is a constant rise in cases of people suffering from serious respiratory illnesses caused by the polluting gases emitted by the plant. The report, published by journalist Ehab Zidan on the Daraj media platform, highlights the originality of the local population’s concerted campaign when confronted with this danger. In the face of silence from the authorities, a group of farmers has become involved in producing organic fertiliser.
This initiative aims both to cover their own fertiliser requirements while showing respect for the environment and to exert a form of economic pressure on the plant. This solution, which was devised and introduced by the local people has started to bear fruit as it has had a negative impact on the plant’s turnover, forcing its management to change their strategy and move towards production of fertilisers that are less polluting.
Read the report and watch the video on the Daraj website (in Arabic).

Uses of renewable energy for sustainable agriculture

The energy transition is central to the fight against global warming. In his report, broadcast by Cillium FM, journalist Hatem Salhi tackles the renewable energy-related issues for farmers in the Kasserine Governorate, in a semi-arid region of central Tunisia that is particularly exposed to global warming. The report highlights the experiences of farmers who have opted to use renewable energy. According to Chokri Chakhari, one of the farmers interviewed for the report, in a context marked by rising electricity prices, solar energy, which “would cost nothing”, is a worthwhile opportunity to reduce expenses considerably.
In addition, as stated by “Tunisian Green Climate Fund” coordinator Chokri Mezghenni, renewable energy has more global virtues: by facilitating a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it helps combat global warming and also represents a catalyst for reducing the country’s energy dependency.

As part of the MediaLab Environment project, around 20 journalists have received solutions journalism training and support in adopting this approach to produce videos and podcasts on environmental issues.