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Assessment of Land Degradation Processes for

Sustainable Environmental Management of


Natural Resources in the costal Areas
Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen
PROPOSAL
2009
Table of Contents
Abstract............................................................................................................ 2
Executive Summary.........................................................................................3
Introduction and literature review....................................................................6
Introduction................................................................................................. 6
Justification and benefits..................................................................................8
Objectives......................................................................................................10
Scope.............................................................................................................. 12
Methodology and work plan..........................................................................13
References...................................................................................................... 13
Appendices..................................................................................................... 20

Assessment of Land Degradation Processes for Sustainable Environmental


Management of Natural Resources in the costal Areas,Algier, Egypt,
Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen

Abstract
Deterioration of natural resources, and their losses, are increasing the stresses
felt by communities benefiting from them. Land degradation leading to direct
loss of soil, and indirect impacts on plant cover, with resultant desertification,
is the major concern of this proposal. It aims to define a proper framework for
sustainable management of the soil cover against land degradation and
mitigation of desertification on socio-economic aspects in the eastern
Mediterranean, i.e. Lebanon and Syria.
The work entails collection of existing data, and investigating the nature and
extent of land degradation through field work and remote sensing. This will
include physical deterioration and chemical contamination, leading to
mapping and assessing remedial measures. Obviously, monitoring is an
important component, especially with the use of standard indicators. Building
upgraded-updated data information systems and maps will contribute to a
well established management plan for proper protection.
Natural resources are integrated entities, and the public plus other
stakeholders have a significant contribution in their protection. Participatory
approaches are emphasized with respect to remediation measures. This will
be enhanced by capacity building for relevant institutions and training for

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human know-how. Working policies that link institutions and the stakeholders
with a sustainable outlook, will strengthen protecting those natural resources.
Exploitation plans and dissemination of knowledge will permeate the benefits
and sustainability of the project.
The cooperation of experienced interdisciplinary teams from relevant
ministries in the two countries, led by the remote sensing agencies in both,
will assure a fully integrated project. It is proposed for a duration of four
years, covering the humid coastal zone, the mountains and the semi-arid inner
plain to the slopes of the eastern mountain chain. A variable output will
reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the proposal, including dissemination
workshops, training materials, maps for decision-makers and the public,
reports on status of land degradation, hot spots, workable indicators for
monitoring, and a management plan containing remedial measures based on a
land degradation data information system (LDDIS). The proposed budget is
US$ 1,270,000 to be co-financed between the lead agencies of the two
countries at 25% each and international organizations. There are several
international programs relevant to land degradation and desertification, be it
with GEF, UNCCD, FAO, the European Commission, and bilateral interests.
These would ease up co-funding this proposal.

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Keywords: Eastern Mediterranean, land degradation, environmental hot-spots,


regional mapping, monitoring indicators, participation, capacity building,
sustainable management.

Executive Summary
1. The project focuses on assessing land degradation along the eastern
Mediterranean covering most of Lebanon and western Syria, which
constitute vital socio-economic areas in the Region. It is concerned
with investigating the nature and extent of land degradation processes
as they are becoming crucial to the sustainability of local communities
who are losing land productivity.
2. Detailed work will assess the different causes, using field and remote
sensing techniques, with highly experienced interdisciplinary teams.
This is achieved through partnership and cooperation between the

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remote sensing agencies of both countries as project leaders, and the
relevant ministries of agriculture, environment and municipalities.
3. The project serves several purposes including characterization of the
degradation in different micro-climatic zones, i.e. from the coastal
humid, through the mountainous and into the inner dry semi-arid. The
experience can be later applied to other Arab countries. Thematic maps
at different levels of work will be produced. Some will serve for
planning purposes at the level of the decision-maker, others will be for
experts and researchers, and the third will help the community at large.
4. The component of human impact is given high significance as human
interference is a prime factor in the degradation, plus being affected
itself by the consequences. Accordingly, public participation is
considered throughout the phases of the project, implemented through
seminars, workshops and interviews.
5. Of course, a general evaluation of the status quo and available data will
be undertaken. This should cover old works, digital coverage and
attribute data on degradation processes, environmental impacts and
socio-economic aspects which would prove useful for the laying out of
maps and identifying change trends. This is also crucial for the
integrated interdisciplinary approach of the project where experts on
databases, remote sensing and GIS, socio-economists,
environmentalists, soil scientists and earth resources people will be
working together.
6. The integrated approach will help identify effective remedial measures
within a proper management plan. Although preventive measures
should be given priority, yet the team and plan would be open to others,
i.e. mitigation and restoration measures as well. These would cover
both technical and policies/institutional sides, assuring that capacity
building and a monitoring program have built in a reliable mechanism
for sustainability of the project, after its termination.
7. Geographic coverage from the coast inland to the edge of the eastern
mountain chain will assure that different physiographic, climatic,
terrain and local communities are represented. Monitoring, mapping
and prioritization will assure covering different criteria to select “hot
spots” and “bright spots”. International standards and geo-indicators on
soil, water and plants will be applied for categorization and

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prioritization of those spots, but taking local characteristics into
consideration.
8. Again, output maps will be designed for different stakeholders in order
to make them “user friendly”. Detailed work on stability, erosion, land
use, agro practices, land value and trends of changing patterns will help
determine the remedial measures for the hot spots.
9. The project builds up incrementally to reach the management plan. This
requires training and capacity building for the different stakeholders.
Different types of stakeholders are envisaged, i.e. ministries,
municipalities, NGOs, researchers and private sector. This would
include policy-strategy analysis, the knowledge base needed and
relevant legislation and organization. Aspects and procedures should
cover cooperation, technical upgrading, regulations, rehabilitation,
economic incentives and public participatory modalities.
10. Since public participation is important to the project, observation tools,
reflecting on extent of degradation, i.e. indicators, are given for
monitoring by the public. The implementation must be approved by
the concerned stakeholders, and verification procedures are given for
that purpose.
11. Post implementation and sustainability funding can be secured through
local interest groups, and act as seed for encouraging external
support. The project funding of US$ 1,270,000 is proposed to be
shared by the lead agencies in both countries and international
support.
12. The project ascertains two important working issues, one is that it
raises no ethical issues, and two it gives due significance to gender
issues.

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Introduction and literature review
Introduction
Land resources in the eastern Mediterranean have been continuously subject
to increasing human pressures. Several natural and human-induced factors
contribute to the deterioration of land resources in the region. The abundance
of bare and deteriorated lands with shallow soils points to processes of severe
erosion and land degradation.
Analysis of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) shows that considerable
percentage of the Lebanese and Syrian (mainly in the coastal zone) territory
has complex landforms with sloping and rugged lands, implying that steep
slopes are a major physical factor enhancing soil erosion. The torrential
rainfall causes flash floods and erosion, sometimes leading to mass
movements due to poor drainage and weak lithology. Among the oldest direct
human-induced erosion factors are deforestation and degradation of
vegetative cover in the mountains. Forest fires, and chaotic urban sprawl
amplify the negative impact of deforestation thus enhancing soil erosion by
water and wind. Inappropriate irrigation practices and fertilizer application
contribute to the development of soil salinity, not only in the arid and semi-
arid areas, but also in the more humid Mediterranean coastal areas especially
with greenhouse agriculture. Seawater intrusion and mismanagement lead to
deterioration of groundwater quality and soil contamination hazards. An
integrated approach is needed to facilitate the monitoring of land degradation,
extraction of indicators and the elaboration of responsive measures to prevent
and reverse land degradation processes where possible.
Egypt occupies an area of over 1 million square kilometers (km) characterized by
an arid and hyper arid climate. The main agro ecological zones are the north coastal
belts, including the north-west coastal area, the Nile Valley, which encompasses
the fertile alluvial lands of Upper Egypt, the Delta and the reclaimed desert areas
on the fringes of the Nile Valley, the inland Sinai and the Eastern Desert with its
elevated southern areas, and finally the western desert, oases and southern remote
areas. The population is concentrated along the Nile and within the Delta, where
most of the country’s agriculture is practiced.
The area of the coastal zone of Egypt is subject to different types of land
degradation as a result of physical, chemical and biological processes. Land
degradation is due to the low natural resilience of the soil as well as various
environmental and human pressures. The low soil fertility and weak structure are

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due to the overall characteristics of these soils, which are sandy and silty with low
organic matter content. This makes these soils highly vulnerable to wind and water
erosion. With the reclamation of the land, further deterioration of its quality is
occurring as a result of misuse and mismanagement of land resources. Productivity
has been limited, in part, by high salinity levels and by the encroachment of urban
settlements onto previously cultivated lands. The natural protection from coastal
erosion and the formation of coastal lagoons were due to the high sand dunes.
However, coastal erosion is being accelerated by the retreat of the shores resulting
from the insufficient sediment load of the Nile River water discharged into the
Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the erosion rate of the shoreline of the north-west coast
has increased in the past two decades and satellite images show that the areas
already lost to the sea are in the thousands of feddans.
There are soil salinity problems, which are caused by the overexploitation of
groundwater on the fringes of the Coastal Zone of Egypt; in addition, the prevailing
soil resources and the physiography are of low quality, and there are inappropriate
land management practices. Waterlogging, and the mismanagement of irrigation
coupled with restricted drainage conditions are leading to increased soil salinization
and to soil sodicity development.39 Wind and water erosion are aggravating the
problem and leading to a loss of plant cover and genetic resources. In the north-
west coastal zone, the effect of tillage and inappropriate land use is leading to high
annual soil losses (10.6 tons/ha), which are 93 per cent greater than losses
occurring through wind erosion. The use of pesticides and other agricultural
chemicals is leading to the pollution of soils and to serious environmental hazards.
For example, the use of chemical fertilizers increased fourfold in the past two
decades, and the same holds true for herbicides, which are used to control
submerged weeds and water hyacinths in canals and drains.
The expansion of irrigation into desert lands is increasing the pressure on the
available and often nonrenewable groundwater resources. The demand for water
has been increased, due to the high population growth and to the development of
irrigated agriculture, which has further aggravated the conflict for water.
The overexploitation of groundwater resources is leading to an intrusion of
seawater into coastal aquifers and this is causing deterioration of the quality of
water, which is becoming more and more saline. Its use in irrigation further adds
salts to the soil, and this is negatively affecting land productivity. The problem is
more severe in the reclaimed areas of the north-west coast where groundwater is
the main source of freshwater resources.
Over the upcoming decades, the coastal zone of Egypt is expected to be affected by
climate change and a possible sea rise, the overall impact of which will largely
depend on the degree of coastal alterations. An intensified use of land in the coastal
region will inevitably be due to the continued growth of the population. The

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anticipated agricultural intensification and increased land reclamation, irrigation,
urbanization and other activities that negatively affect the soil and water quality
will amplify the negative impact that climate change and sea rise will have on the
area. Land degradation as a result of urban encroachment on the highly fertile
agricultural land is one of the recent problems that have affected the agricultural
sector of Egypt. The expansion of cultivated areas into rangelands and the
cultivation of low productive land, prone to erosion, are causing a substantial loss
in biodiversity and are reducing the grazing lands traditionally used by Bedouins.
This is also affecting the total water balance and as a result might increase soil
erosion.
Libya consists mostly of desert terrain. Only the narrow coastal strip receives sufficient
rainfall to make it suitable for agriculture and this is where ninety three percent of the
population lives. In the coastal belt is where the main agricultural areas are also located.
The study area located in northwest part of Libya, known as the Al-Jifārah plain in, is the
most advanced economic region in the country. Intensive development and population
growth combined with water scarcity during recent years have resulted pollution of the
groundwater aquifers which represent the only dependable water supply of a burgeoning
and expanding economy.

Most of the area has 5–10 inches (125–250 mm) annual rainfall, except for the coastal
area around Tripoli, which has about 15 inches (380 mm). The coastal strip supports
many palm groves; some fruit and grain crops are grown. The central region of the
Jifārah, with a much lower water table, supports only nomadic herding of sheep and
goats. The narrow piedmont area of al-Jifārah (up to about 1,000 feet [300 m] above sea
level), a desert region with scattered oases, is everywhere separated from the Saharan
upland by pronounced scarp ridges, or cuestas

Justification and benefits


The project will encompass different disciplines, which provides the possibility for
integrated analysis and management. For the first time in the two countries, soil
erosion will be studied on the level of watershed, linking the natural factors with
the socio-economics. This will help overcoming the lack the information on the
quantification of soil erosion to elaborate mitigation programs. During the life time
of this project, data on the state of land degradation will be collected and analyzed
and a database will be created. It will help assessing the driving forces, nature and
extent of land degradation. On the other hand, the project will study the nature and
extent of soil contamination with heavy metals and provide for the first time an
assessment of land capability and suitability based on soil quality.
The government and public involvement in the project will ensure the adaptation of
the assessment methods and elaboration and implementation of remedial and
preventive measures. The production of several levels of thematic maps will serve
the decision-making circles and public awareness. The project findings will support

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the conservation and improvement of soil productivity. The analysis of production
and market conditions and socio-economic factors behind land abandonment will
ensure the means for better economic and environmentally sound production
systems. This will alleviate poverty and migration and provide the women a role in
the progress of local societies.
The training provided at local, municipal and ministry level will help building
national capacities for the remediation of hot spots and monitoring of bright spots.
The high cost of land degradation in the area and its social and economic
consequences justify the analysis of land degradation, which can contribute to
improved living standards, and conflict resolution of shared resources.
Assessing the actual risks of soil erosion and contamination and the development of
management plans to protect natural resources will maintain the required quality of
soil and water resources, and alleviate/reduce the heath hazards related to the
deterioration of the environment. Elaborating simple methods and indicators for the
assessment and monitoring of land degradation, producing the means for an
effective control during the implementation of remedial measures and
dissemination of knowledge and proper exploitation plans will raise the
effectiveness of the society to manage its resources.

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Objectives
• Collect, evaluate and screen existing data: Information on land
degradation in Lebanon is recent, and studies analyzing the driving
forces and impacts of degradation have started in the fifties but covered
different aspects sporadically. They were mainly related to natural
factors, and to a less extent to human factors. Analyzing the existing
data in the spirit of Driving forces, Pressure, Status, Impact and
Response (DPSIR) and elaborating gaps for the execution of land
degradation assessment using the adapted FAO’s LAnd Degradation
Assessment (LADA) methodology is a prerequisite for a successful
study.
• Investigate nature and extent of Land Degradation: The project aims at
studying the state and extent of land degradation integrating the
biophysical and human factors. Initiate studies addressing the
quantification of the physical, chemical and biological degradation to
build a database on the watershed level relating the causes and effects
of land degradation.
• Assess levels of chemical soil contamination: With the expansion of
urban, agricultural and industrial activities, land is subject to increased
pressure on its quality due to probable increasing level of soil
contamination with toxic heavy metals. The project will assess the
nature, extent and spatial distribution of heavy metals in the arable soil
layers, and assess the protection that different soil types can provide to
groundwater and plants.
• Identify effective indicators for bright and hot-spots: The project aims
at identifying different environmental indicators that are simple to
quantify using the available and produced information. Indicators will
characterize each component of land degradation. They are also
applicable in control of the implementation of remedial measures in the
hot spots, and for the monitoring of the improvement of bright spots.
• Map and establish data bases and information system: Three levels of
thematic maps will be produced to serve the purpose of decision-
making process, technical staff and local players. They will be based on
the information stored in the database which is regularly updated
following any change in land use, urban expansion and other driving
forces.

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• Develop a management plan to protect natural resources: According to
the project goals, the assessment of land degradation is oriented to
define a scheme for areas of priority intervention. The management
plan will cover not only unstable areas but also stable managed and
natural areas undergoing degradation.
• Enhance participatory approaches contribution to remediation
measures: Based on the assessment procedures and elaboration of
indicators, the project will work in close interaction with government
bodies and local stakeholders to elaborate and execute the remedial
measures. A special focus is oriented to the gender issue, which is still
not actively involved in rural action programs.
• Build up capacity to strengthen institutional setting and policies: Based
on institutional technical and infrastructural background, which plays
an important role in the elaboration of appropriate policies, the project
aims to strengthen institutional capacity building to fulfill gaps in the
current legislation addressing the conservation of natural resources in
the area.
• Disseminate appropriate knowledge and proper exploitation plans: To
ensure public awareness, the applicability of data elsewhere, and
scientific merit of the methodologies, the project will widely
disseminate relevant information to ensure the proper management and
implementation of results.

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Scope
The focus of the proposal on sustainability of natural resources, notably soil,
stems from their significance to socio-economic stability in the region,
especially Syria and Lebanon. The impacts of land degradation, or
desertification, is huge indeed. This theme has, in fact, taken international
significance as witnessed by the following programs (more details in Funding
Section): UNEP – MAP CAMP projects, EC SMAP projects, UNDP – GEF
component on desertification, UNCCD, GTZ Regional aid on desertification,
FAO LADA and GLCN projects, CIDA – Canada and SIDA of Sweden …
etc.
The remote sensing agencies of Lebanon and Syria will coordinate the work
in each country, working with partners from ministries of agriculture,
environment and municipalities. A project steering committee (PSC) will
have an overall view throughout the project. Work packages will have
responsible leaders to assure coordination, scheduling and proper
implementation. Careful monitoring of project progress and reporting against
its milestones will assure minimal risk to project success. Several meetings of
the PSC and technical committees will secure the above. The project has a
full work package for proper dissemination of knowledge.
The project will be performed by highly experienced interdisciplinary teams
of soil scientists, earth scientists, information and remote sensing specialists,
agronomists, economists and sociologists to cover its requirements on data
collection, assessing land degradation, identifying remedial measures,
monitoring hot spots and differential mapping output for different
stakeholders. An upgraded database will serve several purposes, especially
the proposed management plan. The inherent nature of land degradation,
intertwined so closely with the community, demands that participatory
approaches and capacity building are followed. This is important in order to
strengthen institutional and policy formulation. Obviously, dissemination of
the resultant knowledge is crucial, and will be taken at different levels.
The work plan of the project follows five overlapping phases, starting with
initiation where integrating inputs, plus project management and coordination
are defined, and existing data are collected; Phase II carries on, in addition, to
investigating physical land degradation through field work and remote
sensing; this continues in Phase III with exploring extent of chemical
contamination and defining hot spots; the control starts in Phase IV where

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monitoring of indicators and remedial measures is operative, plus mapping of
outcome. In the final Phase V, refining the database, the maps, and
establishing a management system is completed. All phases will end with
reporting, and several workshops plus dissemination activities, for
participatory and capacity building purposes, will be done.

Methodology and work plan


The work plan of the project will follow five overlapping phases, which will
go in parallel with marked milestones and accompanying work packages
where different methodologies will be applied delivering the expected outputs
of the project. The detailed work packages below delineate the methodologies
and their tasks.
The five phases relationships are structured so that the project carries on
smoothly from one into the other without delays of interruption (Figure 1).
Phase I, the initiation, starts with coordination of the integrated inputs and
defining project management, while collection of data starts (work packages –
WP00 and WP01), this carries on in Phase II where investigating the land
degradation through field work and remote sensing proceeds (WP02, WP03),
then identifying and monitoring hot/bright spots begins in Phase III including
finding out the remedial measures (WP04, WP05), these carry on inputing
data for Phase IV where project control and building up the final maps and
databases have started, as well as feeding inputs to start the last phase (WP06,
beginning of WP07). All the previous results are being checked in the final
Phase V, where participatory approaches, capacity building, refining data
outputs and management plan for post project implementation are completed,
followed with reporting (WP08, WP09, WP10).
The work details are described later in the relevant work packages. But it is
important to reflect on the sequence of activities and show it in a Gannt Chart
(Figure 2) (see Appendix).

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Appendices

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