Playing in Lake Azegza, Middle Atlas, in my childhood.
Driving down the road from Khenifra towards Midelt, one would encounter a mixed landscape: towering and beautiful cedars for a four or five kilometer stretch and then barren desert wasteland worthy of the steppes of Mongolia for another hundred kilometers.
Another drive on the coastal road between El-Jadida and Safi, reveals a mixed scene between beautiful beaches and cliffs-- and ugly refineries and factories lining the rural coastline. Or again, between the tiny Surfing village of Taghazoute and Agadir where pristine beaches are destroyed by dust-kicking golf course projects and Saudi Palaces built on prime coastline locations. And while the Saudis build their palaces in Agadir, the Emiratis go game-hunting in helicopters for our beautiful and rare cheetahs a little farther south.
So who's behind this misuse of Morocco's natural beauty and environment? In all of this political upheaval and demand for political reform, I don't think I have heard one word about the environment. Yet the deteriorating environment is the most visible sign of bad governance in our country.
Having talked to some locals from the Middle Atlas and J'bala region near Ouazzane I have come to understand how well-known the Makhzen is for parcelling up land and selling it for record low prices to certain businessmen close to the Royal court. I even got one family name of one of these elite businessmen, El-... Oh, wait-- saying it would cause me a little bit of trouble so I will have to self-censor myself on this one.
Moment of silence for the commonality of self-censorship in Morocco.
Getting back to what I was saying: these businessmen profiteer off the forests of Morocco, stripping entire mountains or even regions of their forest cover at a rate of 30,000 hectares a year. What's more troubling isn't the existence of these (de)forestry monopolies but rather their effect on the natural beauty and touristic value of our country, or worse, on local populations.
"If I were to go in there and cut down one tree to buy food for my children, I would go to jail, but the Makhzen allows businessmen to cut down hectares at a time."
This statement by a Khenifra region local captures what I'm trying to get at: the local inhabitants, so poor Aljazeera made a documentary on them, do not have full access to their very own millenia-old natural resources. So not only are they losing the forests they have lived in for so long, but they can't even profit from them!
Who else is losing? Ironically, the emblem of our nation: the Atlas Lion-- well on its way to extinction. Various other species that used to make our biodiversity so vivid are also in danger, amongst them barbary apes, lynxes, leopards-- these are at least the cute fluffy ones people seem to care about so much, but believe me there are tons of others you don't even hear about!
What is the Minister of Forestry and Waterways doing? Or the local governors of regions where environmental safeguarding is crucial? Neither of them are doing anything. They're not concerned with credibility or re-election amongst the people, the people don't vote for them! What seems to be more important to them, is the profit they make from allowing the unregulated exploitation of our natural resources.
What is it that guarantees that the new constitution will protect us from corruption and hence, from this deterioration of our nation's natural beauty? Nothing, the new constitution will only be a clear continuation of this destruction. And how dare you call me a traitor or unpatriotic for wanting to protect my country's beauty and emblem?