Environmental Education: Key to a Better Future

environmental-educationTomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit. As climate change is being felt across the globe and its long term catastrophic impacts have never been so scientifically clear, environmental education is the key to a better future. In an era where more and more children are disconnected from nature, we should recognize the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning. Studies have shown environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue career in environmental and natural resources. And not only that: environmental education can help children perform better in social studies, science, language, arts, and mathematics.

Engagement at Different Levels

The secret to environmental education is to act at different levels, engaging the entire school and addressing students, teachers, parents, administrators and all members of the schools community. Eventually, it will link up all the participants within the community. The components of this initiative depend on interaction and participation, with teachers undertaking a guiding role by encouraging students to discover solutions on their own.

At first students should determine and check the extent of their use of natural resources in the school. Through this, they evaluate their efforts in the field of environmental management. 

As a second step, children should set up and run Eco Clubs. Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities. They also serve as a forum through which the students share environmental problems, along with the school staff, parents and the community surrounding the school, in order to work on finding solutions, and promote a positive environmental behavior. In this component the schools can implement internal and external projects, such as introducing efficient methods of irrigation, lowering the volume of waste, reducing the consumption of electricity and water and trying to reduce air pollution.

The third step focuses on organizing training courses for teachers and releasing educational resources in different themes and curricula, helping them to teach environmental concepts in innovative ways and through various educational materials. This will help teachers to adapt and to provide students with information about different habitats, biodiversity, climate change and other issues faced at the local level, as well as faced by the planet on a global level.

The final step should be to connect students to environmental causes and issues, and identify solutions through the provision of field trips. Additionally, such trips can be associated with the educational curriculum as they offer direct learning method. This helps boosting the understanding of various concepts by the students, and increasing the chance of using multiple senses such as eyesight, hearing, etc., which helps to raise their capacity to understand what they have learned. The success and engagement of schools to take on the environment field trips is great and extensive and it represents a set full of amazing adventures of exploration and knowledge.

Undoubtedly, the final and greatest outcome is to educate our children on the importance of becoming good environmental citizens.

Challenges in the Middle East

The Middle East region faces difficult natural conditions, and it is clear that steep population growth, poverty and the consequent degradation of natural ecosystems make it a priority when it comes to Environmental awareness and sustainability goals. One of the biggest challenges is certainly the lack of awareness. 

Most countries are blessed with high levels of education, with a large portion of the population pursuing secondary and higher education. Unfortunately however, human development and wealth are not always synonym with high environmental awareness and interest in sustainability issues… Jordan and Lebanon, for example, have their primary focus in tourism, which mostly contributes to their GDPs.

An interesting survey conducted in the Sultanate of Oman revealed that the environmental awareness of the Omani public was related to education level but also to gender and age. Males were found to have a higher level of knowledge about environmental issues than females. Males were also more environmentally concerned and tended to engage in more environmental behaviors than females. Younger and more educated respondents tended to be more knowledgeable and concerned about the environment than older and less educated respondents.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Another challenge that countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar are faced with, is trying to reduce their consumption patterns. Even though awareness levels seem to be higher than in other countries, these nations are notorious for their unsustainable consumption rates. For instance, KSA and the UAE’s water consumption have reached 265 and 550 liters per capita per day respectively, which significantly exceeds the world’s average. 

Participation of Emirati Youth

Educating the UAE youth and preparing them to lead the country’s sustainable future is the first goal in the UAE national environmental awareness strategy and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment encourages the youth to innovate and be part of global environmental efforts.

Recently the UAE has taken a major step including environmental education in all schools: back in November Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, announced that awareness of climate change and how to help save the environment will be taught in classrooms across the country.

Under plans to tweak schools' curriculum to include learning on sustainability, schoolchildren will also be shown how to take energy-saving measures. These include schoolchildren of all ages, including in private sector schools, learning the importance of turning off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, and how to use less water. Each pupil will also be encouraged to spread the message to their family and friends. One of these initiatives, called Sustainable Schools, is an extension of a program that started in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

As a consequence to all these efforts taken by the government, I observed an increase in the numbers of UAE nationals volunteers participating in our programs: we've usually had a majority of Indians and Europeans taking part in our tree planting events or in the anti-pollution awareness drives, but lately large groups of young Emiratis have come forward to participate actively in all our programs and we continue to receive many emails asking to become long term volunteers. This is one of the biggest achievements we could wish for the UAE.

Note: For more information about the author of this article, please click here

Green Resolutions for New Year

green-resolutionsThis year, in addition to our personal goals, let us make another New Year resolution: to make this year the year we really ‘go green’. Supporting environmental initiatives should be one of our main priorities and needs to be reflected through our resolutions and commitment to safeguard it against all forms of pollution and to protect our fragile and finite resources. Depending on our age, work, location etc., our priorities may be different but our actions should be in unison towards environmental protection.

We need to understand that we have very recklessly plundered the global resources in a short span of time that is causing many adversities and catastrophes, but we are the only species that have to take preventive measures to avoid any such occurrences in future. Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment.

Let us, at the least, try to support the following activities and tasks starting from this year and onward, if we have not practiced earlier:

  • Protect and enhance the green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
  • Utilizing our roof for gardening and creating green areas.
  • Enviauditing of our household and office related activities. Improving tasks that require electricity and water usage.
  • Use minimum water for our daily activities.
  • Wash clothes in normal water and washing only when full loads are in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth or shave.
  • Watering our lawn in the morning/ evening to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Changing incandescent bulbs for C.F.L.s.
  • Conserve energy in all forms. Switch lights when not in use.
  • Unplug mobile charger and computer after use as it wastes a lot of energy.
  • Avoid fast fashion. Reduce our insatiable appetite for design apparel and related clothing that we wear for only one season and throw it in next. Only buy what you need.
  • Do green shopping and donate items/ clothes we do not use.
  • Detox your home. Only use safe chemicals and detergents as household cleaning products for furniture, bathrooms and clothes including air fresheners.
  • Reuse and recycle material
  • Plan vehicle trips to avoid peak hours and traffic congestion.
  • Avoiding wasting any food items.
  • Avoid plastic bags and taking our own bag for shopping.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam cups, disposable cutlery and other related items.
  • Avoid un-necessary print outs and photocopy.
  • Minimize using bottled drinking water. This is expensive and generates plastic bottles waste. Instead use filtering equipment at home or use large refillable and reusable bottles.
  • Avoid using paper towels and napkins. Instead use cotton clothes and old used fabrics.
  • Enhancing our awareness by reading and knowing more on environment.

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Enjoy the festivities of the season and be a more responsible citizen of the world. Happy New Year!

أسلوب حياة أخضر

green-lifestyle-arabicتبني "أسلوب حياة أخضر" هو محاولة لترشيد استغلال الفرد أو المجتمع للموارد الطبيعية عن طريق تغيير أساليب النقل واستهلاك الطاقة، واستخدام المياه وغيرها. ويعنى أسلوب الحياة الأخضر بتلبية الاحتياجات البيئية والاجتماعية، والاقتصادية الحالية دون المساس بقدرة الأجيال المقبلة على تلبية احتياجاتها. ويعد انخفاض حجم البصمة البيئية أو الكربونية هو النتيجة الطبيعية لأسلوب المعيشة المستدامة.

ويعتبر تلوث المياه، وتلوث التربة، وتلوث الهواء، والتخلص من النفايات والمحافظة على الموارد الطبيعية، وحماية الحياة البرية من التحديات البيئية الرئيسية التي تواجه البشرية. ولكلٍ منا دور يمكن أن يلعبه لتحقيق الاستدامة، وذلك من خلال تبني أسلوب حياة خضراء. وفيما يلي بعض النصائح التي يمكن أن تساعد في خلق بيئة صحية لك ولعائلتك، وللأرض كذلك:

  1. اتبع/ي التسلسل الهرمي للتعامل مع النفايات: يمكن تحقيق ذلك من خلال التدرج ابتداءً من تقليل الاستهلاك، ثم إعادة الاستخدام ثم إعادة تدوير ما تبقى.
  2. جرب/ي تغيير استخدام الاشياء: وذلك بتحويل النفايات إلى مواد أو منتجات ذات جودة أو قيمة أعلى من السلعة الأصلية، على سبيل المثال تحويل كيس من البلاستيك إلى بطانة داخلية لحاويات القمامة أو تحويل عبوة بلاستيكية إلى حاضنة بذور.
  3. حول/ي المواد العضوية إلى سماد: حيث يمكن انتاج السماد بتخمير المواد العضوية لإضافة المواد المغذية لتربة حديقة المنزل وتقليل نفاياتك المنزلية في نفس الوقت.
  4. أعد/أعيدي استخدام المياه: على الرغم من أهمية المياه كمورد لا يمكن الاستغناء عنه إلا أن محدوديتها تقضي بضرورة تدويرها و إعادة استخدامها؛ كاستخدام المياه الرمادية -بعد معالجتها -في نظام التدفق في المراحيض، وفي ري الحدائق. كما يوفر تجميع مياه الأمطار مصدرا اخر من المياه ذات النوعية الجيدة.
  5. بادر/ي بترشيد استخدام الطاقة: تعتبر الطاقة هي القوة الدافعة للتنمية، ويمكن القيام ببعض الممارسات للتقليل من هدرها كإطفاء أجهزة الكمبيوتر ليلاً، واستبدال المصابيح بتلك الموفرة للطاقة وتجنب وضع الأجهزة في وضع الاستعداد في حال عدم الحاجة لها.
  6. أعد/أعيدي التفكير في حاجتك للمياه المعبأة في عبوات بلاستيكية: لابد أن نتنبه إلى أن عبوات المياه البلاستيكية تستغرق آلاف السنين لتتحلل.لذا من الأجدر الاستغناء عنها بعبوة قابلة لإعادة الاستخدام.
  7. حاول/ي إعادة تدوير الهواتف المحمولة القديمة: يتم الاستغناء عن مئات الملايين من الهواتف المحمولة في كل عام مما يتسبب بإدخال العديد من المواد السامة إلى الأنظمة البيئية، في حال التخلص منها في مكبات النفايات المنزلية. هناك العديد من المشاريع التي تقوم بإعادة تدوير الهواتف ,أغلبها لتمويل مبادرات نبيلة.
  8. أعد/أعيدي تدوير الألومنيوم والزجاج: يمكن انتاج عشرين علبة ألمنيوم معاد تدويرها بنفس كمية الطاقة اللازمة لتصنيع علبة واحدة جديدة. وبالمثل، فإن كل طن من الزجاج المعاد تدويره يوفر ما يعادل تسعة غالونات من زيت الوقود اللازم لصنع الزجاج من المواد الخام.
  9. تجنب/ي استخدام الأكياس البلاستيكية: يتم استهلاك حوالي تريليون كيس في جميع أنحاء العالم كل عام مما يتسبب بأضرار عديدة في الأنظمة البيئية. ويمكن الاستعاضة بأكياس القماش القابلة للتحلل والتي يمكن إعادة استخدامها.
  10. نمي الأفكار: المعيشة المستدامة ليست مهمة صعبة المنال. يمكن لأشياء بسيطة، مثل زرع شجرة، أن تحدث فرقا ملموسا.

 

green_living_middle-east

ترجمه

سمر طه

يوسف بنغزواني

 

Effective Energy Management for Businesses

energy-management-middle-east-businessesMiddle East has been witnessing a rapid increase in energy consumption due to high degree of industrialization, high standards of living and exponential increase in population. Infact, the level of primary energy consumption in the Middle East is among the highest worldwide.  These factors have made businesses in Middle East to realize that effective energy management is not only good for the businesses but also an essential requirement.

In recent years, many businesses in the Middle East have come up with dynamic strategies to achieve immediate reduction in energy consumption. This trend towards effective energy management is expected to continue to grow in the region in the coming years on account on changing regulations and growing awareness on energy conservation.

Ingredients of Effective Energy Management Plan

For an energy management plan to succeed, the entire organization including its employees and management team, should be committed to the implementation of energy management strategy whose main elements are:

  • Goal-setting: how much energy reduction do you want to achieve?
  • Number-crunching: how much energy do you consume?
  • Identifying energy-guzzlers: What are major consumption units and what measures can be taken to reduce consumption
  • Technology and automation: Smart metering, schedule-based lighting, occupancy sensors, HVAC control and latest technological innovation provides an active approach to energy management
  • Continuous review and management: Regular performance monitoring is essential to check the progress towards your energy-saving goals. 

Hurdles to Overcome

​Lack of incentives to reduce energy consumption is a major hurdle faced by businesses in the Middle East. In the GCC region, electricity is usually provided at heavily subsidized rates which fail to provide the motivation to the consumer to reduce energy consumption. Most of the commercial buildings in the Middle East consume huge amount of energy in the form of HVAC, lighting, ventilation etc., and there is a real need to make such buildings ‘ energy smart’ in the real sense of the word.

An energy smart building - Siemens headquarters at Masdar

An energy smart building – Siemens headquarters at Masdar

Role of Technology

Technology plays a vital role in reducing energy consumption as energy-savings are not limited to power consumption by HVAC, lighting or ventilations, but also encompass optimization of energy use, building infrastructure, supply chain networks, product design, transportation networks etc. Businesses in the Middle East may strive for energy-smart buildings, smart grid systems and renewable energy sources (like rooptop solar and biogas systems) to improve their long-term sustainability and more effective cost-management.

Guide to Green Camping in Bahrain

camp-sakhirThe winter camping season in Bahrain will start from 22nd October and campers will be flocking to Sakhir and adjacent areas especially during weekends. The five month camping season will be starting soon and will conclude in March 2017 with many governmental authorities managing and monitoring the camping activities to avoid occurring of any accident due to sensitivity of the area and to protect the natural environment. The camping areas have been marked and displayed for the people’s attention to book the location/ site and register their camps.

Camping is not only an outing and enjoyment but it also serve as a learning method of how to live close to the nature. Once we are enjoying the camping, we often forget and disregard the environment and mistreat it with our careless behavior.

The authorities like previous years have devised plans and programs and are creating awareness among the campers on safety and environmental concerns through media, notices, bill boards and banners. As per the rules, the campers are required to camp at least 150 meters away from any oil and gas fields and more than 50 meters away from the electricity voltage pylons and main roads to ensure their safety. This year, officials have ambitious plans to organize awareness campaigns to combat littering menace and imposing fines on violators.

The Supreme Camping Season Committee has asked the campers to camp in the allocated areas, register their camps and obtain camping label stressing that camps that are not registered or against the rules will be removed. The campers are asked to place the label in a clear and prominent place. Placing of fencing or installing signs, poles as well as afforestation work before the start of camping season are not allowed. The committee has also urged campers to maintain their safety by providing safety equipment in tents like a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit, not to use open fires or stoves inside tents and provide an independent venue for the kitchen.

Campers are advised not to store any flammable materials in the camp in any form. Camps should be established away from slopes, to avoid damages due to rain and floods, mountain heights, restricted areas or pipes. Campers have been asked to maintain cleanliness of the camps by collecting garbage in bags and putting them in the allocated spots for garbage collection. Burning waste during or after the end of the camping season has also been prohibited. The committee also prohibited establishing buildings of brick or cement, putting barriers or tires in the camping sites. Barns are not allowed for any purpose. Keeping animals and hunting is also prohibited. The engagement in any action that would harm the environment and the wildlife is prohibited. It includes the destruction of trees, wild plants, leveling the ground etc.

Protection of the environment should be embedded in camping activities

Protection of the environment should be embedded in camping activities

The principle of green camping is “If you brought it in…. you need to take it out and leave the area just as you found it.” Let us follow some basic rules for our safety, health and environmental conservation at the camping sites.

  • Use minimum illumination and electronic gadgets.
  • Switch off all electricity appliances and instruments when not in use.
  • Use minimum water and turn off the taps after use.
  • Do not store any waste at site. Keep all recyclable and disposable waste in separate bags.
  • Avoid using disposable plates, cups, cutlery, dishes etc. Use reusable dishes and utensils and wash them after each use.
  • Don’t throw any food in open. It will attract vermin, birds, insects and rodents.

Let us be more environmental conscious and respect our resources while enjoying the camping season this year.

Sustainable Agriculture: Perspectives for Jordan Valley

agriculture-palestineSustainable agriculture development is one of the most important pillars of the EcoPeace Middle East's Jordan Valley Master Plan as it provides livelihood and prosperity for all the people in the valley. The strategic agricultural objective for the study area is improving water use and irrigation efficiencies and economic outputs per unit of water used, and meanwhile stabilize, or even reduce the total water demands for the agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley. This will require adequate tariff policies on water used for irrigation, including enforcement, to stimulate more efficient use of water through for instance greenhouse drip irrigation. These are challenges specifically relevant for Jordan and Palestine.

Greenhouses are a very effective manner to improve water efficiencies and economic outputs in the agricultural sector, using greenhouses reduce the production related risks, provide for better quality crops and provide wider options for crop diversification. Finally, evapotranspiration from greenhouses is substantially less than from open field agriculture (and it does not cause soil salinity). However, greenhouses decrease open spaces, with negative visual impacts to rural landscapes and to wildlife corridors. Hence greenhouse development needs to be carefully planned and many farmers would require adequate and reliable micro-credits in order to invest in greenhouses.

Drip irrigation is another effective manner to improve water efficiencies in the open fields. The challenge is to set up sustainable drip irrigation systems in the Jordan Valley, including appropriate operations and maintenance and monitoring systems. This requires also financial facilities for farmers to invest, standardization of designs and manufacturing and provision of technical support services.

A related challenge is to maximize the reuse of treated wastewater, efficient use of pesticides and fertilizers, introduction or expansion of growing high yield crops, and improving extension services and post harvesting support to the farmers to enable them to create higher economic returns.

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Another major challenge is to address the negative environmental impacts associated with the fish farms. These farms consume substantial amounts of water, due to high evaporation rates, which may be as much as 1-2 meter of water per year. In addition the ponds are flushed once or twice per year, releasing water into the Jordan River, which is polluted with excrements from the fishes, and anti-biotic medications that have to be added to the fish ponds. Due to the evaporation, the effluent is usually brackish as well. Consequently, discharging this wastewater into the environment has substantial impacts to surface water and groundwater quality.

Mitigating these impacts require investments in wastewater treatment facilities, and converting the process to a closed system. Without resolving these issues the future of this industry in the valley must be in doubt, despite any ecological benefits that the fish farms present for bird migration and associated tourism related to bird watching. The master plan sees the need to ensure that those communities relying currently on the fish ponds as their main source of income enjoy stability and that they be supported in the effort to move to closed systems.

A related challenge will be to strengthen the Extension Services for the farmers in the Jordan Valley. These services might be provided through the existing water user associations. In terms of rural economics, an important challenge is to improve the post-harvesting and marketing potentials of the farmers in the Jordan Valley, including setting up product organizations, better information about markets (nationally and internationally) and related product requirements and creating better access to export markets, with particular focus on eco-friendly and sustainable production techniques, regional labeling and fair-trade related markets.

Note: This is the third article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley.

Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation in Jordan Valley

jordan-riverIn the context of EcoPeace Middle East's recently released Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan, the key challenge in sustainable water management is to overcome the water scarcity related problems  in the Jordan Valley. This means creating a sustainable water supply system that meets the current and future domestic and agricultural water demands; and at the same time preserves the water resources for future generations and for the environment. This requires an Integrated Water Resources Management regime for the whole (Lower) Jordan River, based on international co-operation among Israel, Jordan and Palestine, supported with adequate water management tools (like WEAP) to ensure sustainable water supply and an increase of the baseflow and rehabilitation of the ecological values of the Jordan River.

One of the related key challenges is to achieve full treatment of wastewater generated in the study area and full reuse for agricultural purposes. This will both reduce public health related risks and strengthen the agricultural sector. This requires development of a detailed technical and financial plan, including designs and tender documents, for full scale collection, treatment and reuse of the locally generated wastewater flows, including domestic, industrial (mainly oliveoil wastewater in Jordan) and manure management.

Another key challenge is to restore the function of the lower part of the Jordan River as a natural river and water conveyor in the valley for supply purposes, by keeping its flow as long as possible in the river. Rehabilitating the river will include actions in terms of realizing at least one minor flood (c.a. 20-50 m3/sec) per year. In order to bring back the original habitats of the river, also the flow bed of the river are to be widened to about 50-70 m in the north and at least 30 m in the south, with flood plains on both sides.

The salinity of the Jordan River has a natural tendency to increase downstream. This is caused by natural drainage of brackish groundwater into the river, particularly in the southern part of the valley near the Dead Sea. The key challenge is to prevent any inflow of salt or brackish surface water into the river above the point where the river would still be fresh, i.e. above the confluent with Wadi Qelt. This implies bypassing the salt water from the Israeli Saline Water Carrier (SWC), the brackish water from the Israeli Fish Ponds, and the brine from the Abu Zeighan desalination plant to a new outflow located south of the river’s confluent with Wadi Qelt, close to the Dead Sea. If this will be done, the river will be able to provide water of good quality for different user functions. In terms of chloride concentrations this means a maximum of 400 mg/l for drinking water purposes; 600 mg/l for fresh water irrigation; and 1500 mg/l for irrigation of date palms.

An olive oil mill in Jordan

An olive oil mill in Jordan

Another key challenge is to maintain total agricultural water demands at the same level as today, with the exception of Palestine which is currently heavily underdeveloped in terms of agriculture. To achieve a sustainable water balance within the valley and sufficient flows in the river it will furthermore be required that around 2020 Israel will largely cease pumping water to the extent possible out of the valley from the Sea of Galilee through the National Water Carrier (NWC), meanwhile maintaining its present agricultural water consumption within the valley; that the Sea of Galilee will be kept on a medium water level between the top and bottom red lines ("green line" as defined by the Israeli Water Authority); and that by 2050 Jordan will stop diverting water from the Yarmouk and other tributaries to the Kind Abdullah Canal (KAC) to the extent possible, and instead will use the Jordan River as main conveyor for its irrigation supply purposes. In addition, by 2050 Palestine would also use the Jordan River as its main water conveyor, meaning that the planned development of the West Ghor Canal will not be built.

These challenges require a series of related interventions, including adequate water data monitoring and modeling; promotion of water saving and water demand management measures in all sectors; provision of related training and institutional strengthening support services; improved regulations and enforcement on groundwater abstractions to stop groundwater depletion and salination; and implementation of efficient water pricing policies and related enforcement.

In terms of water governance, the challenge will be to strengthen the authorities, including JVA, PWA, in their role as regulator of the water sector in the Jordan Valley. This includes skills with regard to water data collection and management; water resources planning; efficient operations of the water storage and supply system; and strengthening the co-operation with the local water user associations. It also includes monitoring, regulations and enforcement of surface water and groundwater abstractions; protection of sensitive shallow aquifers, efficient tariff policies, and monitoring reduction of agricultural pollution loads.

Note: This is the second article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'. 

Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley

jordan-valleyEcoPeace Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region. EcoPeace has offices in Amman, Bethlehem, and Tel-Aviv. EcoPeace is a project oriented NGO, using both a “top-down” (advocacy) approach coupled with a “bottom-up” (grass roots / community) strategy that has proven to be a very effective work model.

Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan

EcoPeace Middle East recently launched the "Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley", from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Akin to a Marshal Plan, this plan aims to convert a polluted river and highly depressed economic area to a model for river rehabilitation, economic growth, and regional stability.

127 specific regional and national projects ("interventions") have been identified in the framework of the Master Plan, with a total investment value of 4.58 billion USD until the year 2050. The interventions are grouped around 7 strategic planning objectives: Pollution Control, Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation, Sustainable Agriculture, Jordan River Basin Governance, Ecological Rehabilitation, Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development, and Urban and Infrastructure Development.

Strategic Planning Objectives

The key development challenge facing the NGO Master Plan is to strike the right developmental balance between a healthy economic developmental path for the valley and its people on the one hand, and a Jordan River with sufficient environmental flows to sustain a healthy ecosystem on the other hand. To meet this objective there is a need to ensure that the river serves as a natural water conveyor and source for water supply for residents in and outside the valley. Creative solutions are therefore needed to provide sufficient water to supply the projected water requirements of both people and nature. A prerequisite for peace and prosperity is the equitable sharing of water resources and public access to lands and the riverbanks for all riparian nationalities within an appropriate security framework.  

The key strategic planning objectives that would promote sustainable development for the trans-boundary NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley have been identified as 

  1. Pollution Control and Sanitation
  2. Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation
  3. Sustainable Agriculture
  4. Jordan Valley Governance
  5. Ecological Rehabilitation
  6. Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development
  7. Sustainable Urban, Energy and Infrastructure Development

Pollution Control and Sanitation

The objective in terms of pollution control and sanitation is to eliminate all sources of environmental pollution in the Jordan Valley by 2025. This requires full and adequate treatment and reuse of all wastewater flows in the valley and to embark on fully integrated solid waste management, including:

  • (separate) waste collection,
  • transportation;
  • transfer;
  • reuse and recycling of solid waste streams;
  • selection, planning, design and construction of a sanitary landfill;
  • closing of existing non-sanitary dump sites;
  • development of composting facilities;
  • Based on the polluter – pays – principle and progressive taxation for heavy consumers.

The situation today in terms of sanitation and wastewater treatment in Jordan and Palestine is poor. This impacts the public health, as well as the possibilities to use the water resources for economic development. The challenge is to reach a situation where generated wastewater is collected, treated and reused for agricultural purposes, or to introduce better functioning sanitation systems using substantially smaller amounts of water, such as vacuum removal of toilet effluents, or electric incinerating toilets. In any case, localized solutions are preferred, avoiding the use of extensive sewer systems throughout the Jordan Valley. 

sanitation-ecopeace-middleeast

In terms of environmental management, the challenge will be to implement integrated environmental management systems throughout the valley, including monitoring, enforcement and public awareness on wastewater and solid waste management, also focused on non-pollution sources; groundwater protection; water quality management; soil quality and air quality. Land preservation, groundwater protection zoning and problems related to overgrazing are to be addressed adequately.

Sustainable environmental management also requires adequate tools, such as dedicated impact assessment tools and Strategic Environmental Assessments to test new policies and strategies related to the Jordan Valley. In addition, environmental management in the valley requires enhancing water and environmental awareness of all communities, schools and municipalities in the valley, and implementing environmental standards instance according to the ISO norms 14000 and 14001. In terms of agricultural environmental management the challenge is to assist farmers in applying sustainable agronomic practices, including regulation of the use of pesticides and fertilizers and promotion of environmentally sustainable substances. This will support farmers in reaching international agricultural export and import standards.

Note: This is the first article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'

Artificial Reef Construction in the Arabian Gulf

Artificial-ReefCoral reefs around the globe are highly sensitive to abiotic and biotic factors that alter the natural balance of the marine ecosystem. This in terms threatens coral species with the effect of ‘bleaching’ which is slowly destroying the coral communities. As the ecosystem deteriorates, this in turn impacts the fisheries industry which in the Arab Gulf is a major source of local revenue and a major food source for the people of the region.

Artificial Coral Reefs

To counteract the susceptible marine ecosystems, a very innovative and creative approach that has been tried and tested in other parts of the globe, has become a strength in reestablishing marine ecosystems in the Arabian Gulf. Artificial coral reef building approach is one way to mitigate the environmental situations where fish breeding grounds are being destroyed especially by human activities such as overfishing, and island development and land extension along the coast lines. A local company, Al Seef Reef Arabia was established in 2012 in partnership with international partners to design and produce artificial reef units suited for the local environs. 

The Magic of Reef Balls

The reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas. Within the Arab Gulf, the natural reef has coral “bommies”. The man-made reef balls are similar in design and function creating ideal environs for both juvenile and adult fishes. The reef balls provide safe and nutrient rich habitats for fish to bred and grow into full-sized mature species.

The reef balls are made of a marine grade concrete mix of high strength (50+ MPA). There are no toxic chemicals added to the mix and the life expectancy of the reef balls in the Arab Gulf is anticipated to be in excess of 100 years. The balls range in size from as small as 20 kg right up to 9 tonnes. The ball shape is the standard design, but indigenous designs are also explored and experimented with.  It is hoped that they will be an added feature in the tourist industry.

The artificial reef balls have other benefits as well as repairing fish habitats and assisting in replenishing local fisheries. The artificial reefs are hardier and more resilient, so once habitats are re-established, the reefs will provide more diving opportunities for both locals and tourists.

Re-establishment of Marine Ecosystems

Because the Gulf is a major region for oil production which impinges on the coastal waters, as well as the shipping of oil and its byproducts, the marine environment is subjected to harsher factors that degradate the local marine environment. The artificial reefs make a major contribution to reestablishing and strengthening these environments. As well as enhancing the local fisheries and coral regions, the reef balls can also provide beach protection and act as breakwaters in areas subjected to more aggressive wave action.

Reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas

Reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas

The changing climate also has its natural impact as temperatures steadily creep higher each season. There can also be increased levels of toxicity and salinity in the surrounding waters due to anthropogenic activities. Man is able to give nature a hand with these artificial structures.

Bahrain Leading the Way

With government support, the local company has been able to deploy 4,500 reef units since 2014. There are a total of ten reef complexes now deployed in Bahrain coastal waters.  The main objective was to re-establish fish breeding grounds that provide a safe environment for juvenile fishes to mature and ultimately replenish the fish stocks and secure the local fishing industry.

Potential sites for the establishment of artificial reefs are first identified. The areas are then studied and investigated directly with scuba divers and remotely with drop-down video camera, as well as by conducting fish surveys of the area. After a full hydrodynamic assessment of the area is conducted, then plans are devised for restorative action through the placement of the artificial reef balls. Monitoring is conducted on a quarterly basis to record and quantify the re-establishment of various fish species, especially those species that are most favoured in the fishing industry.

As the artificial reef balls projects are still in the early stages, details regarding exact location and the level of restoration is not released to the general public nor scientific community. We will all have to wait a little longer before quantitative evidence is made available to the community at large.

A Message on International Youth Day

International-Youth-DayThe theme of International Youth Day 2016 is ‘The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production’. Globally the governments and organizations are making efforts in involving the youth in environmental conservation and preservation and assisting them in improving the environmental situation and public health in their own areas, cities and countries.

The International Youth Day is also meant to recognize efforts of the world’s youth in enhancing global society. It also aims to promote ways to engage them in becoming more actively involved in making positive contributions to their communities. The involvement in environmental conservation and decision-making and in the implementation of programs is critical and crucial to the long-term success of a healthier world.

Brief Background

The world youth makes up one sixth of the total population of the world. The UN defines the youth as the age group between 15 and 24 years old. Majority of these young men and women live in developing countries and their numbers are expected to rise with time. In 1998 a resolution proclaiming August 12 as International Youth Day was adopted during the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. That recommendation was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1999. International Youth Day was first observed worldwide on 12th August in 2000.

Towards Sustainable Consumption  

Many global programs and initiatives are now involving and targeting the youth for bringing in the change. Sustainable consumption is an umbrella term that brings together a number of key issues, such as meeting needs, enhancing the quality of life, improving resource efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, minimizing waste, taking a life cycle perspective and taking into account the equity dimension.

Youth constitutes one-sixth of the world's population

Youth constitutes one-sixth of the world's population

Sustainable consumption and production maximize business potential to transform environmental challenges into economic opportunities and provide a better deal for consumers. The challenge is to improve the overall environmental performance of products throughout their life-cycle, to boost the demand for better products and production technologies and to help consumers in making informed choices. It involves different stakeholders, including business, consumers, policy makers, researchers, scientists, retailers, media, and development cooperation agencies, among others.

Focus on Food Waste

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is important for food, water and energy consumption as each year, an estimated one third of all food produced, equivalent to 1.3 billion tons’ worth around $1 trillion ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices. Almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry. Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health and the environment. 2 billion people globally are overweight or obese. Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are all reducing the ability of the natural resource base to supply food.

Need for Coordinated Action

Many activities and events that take place around the world on International Youth Day promote the benefits that young people bring into the world. Many countries participate in this global event, which may include youth conferences on issues such as environment, education and employment. Other activities include promoting the world’s youth, as well as various sporting events, parades and mobile exhibitions that showcase young people’s achievements. The concerned authorities in the country give high priority to the youth and youth programs and involve them in planning and implementing activities that enhance their awareness on environmental issues and problems.

Many NGOs and community based organizations are working in enhancing the awareness on environmental subjects and problems. Local organizations are targeting not only towards sports, religion and charity but area cleaning and enhancing landscaping have also become a priority. Let the youth work on reducing the food and waste generated, promote recycling and reuse, conserve electricity and water, cleaning and beautifying their areas and teaching others to take care of our planet.

Top Green Building Trends Worldwide

transparent-solar-windowsWith green building movement sweeping across the world, innovative technologies are being developed to keep pace with increasing shift towards sustainability. Integration of biodegradable, recycled, recyclable and renewable materials in the construction of buildings is attracting great attention worldwide. Natural paints, recycled steel, cellular concrete, clay bricks, wood, bamboo etc. are getting huge popularity in construction of green buildings.

Another interesting innovation is zero-energy building which utilizes solar cells/panels, wind micro-turbines, fuel cells and biofuels, among others, to meet electricity and HVAC requirements of the building. Likewise, net-zero-water-use buildings make use of water conservation systems to efficiently manage water consumption, rainwater harvesting, waterless toilets, greywater reuse, smart landscaping and on-site sewage treatment.

Low-emitting windows, coated with metallic oxide, to block sun’s harsh rays during summer and keep the heat inside in the winter are also gaining popularity. Such windows have the potential to significantly reduce heating and cooling costs of buildings.

According to Dubai-based green buildings expert Sunanda Swain, “Transparent solar window panels can also be incorporated into awnings, curtain walls, glass facade or as overhead glazing units.” She explains, “These increase access to direct sunlight while providing additional architectural benefits such as passive shading.”

Net Zero Energy Buildings rely on exceptional energy conservation and on-site renewable generation to meet energy requirements..

Net Zero Energy Buildings rely on exceptional energy conservation and on-site renewable generation to meet energy requirements..

Another promising innovation is in the form of cool roofs which is made of special tiles and reflective paints to reflect sunlight. Cool roofs have high levels of solar reflectance and thermal emittance, and help in reducing the heat island effect in urban habitats, especially in arid areas like the Middle East.

To sum up, green buildings can not only contribute towards environment protection but also bring loads of advantages to building occupants and users. Lower development costs, reduced operating costs, healthier indoor environment quality and less maintenance costs are major benefits associated with green buildings. To sum up, green building technologies can serve as catalysts for smart urbanization and sustainable development of urban centers, besides ensuring energy security, climate change mitigation, and opening new economic and job opportunities. 

Ramadan: A Catalyst for Green Living

green-ramadanThe true meaning of Ramadan is to take care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems. The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to make a real shift towards ‘green living’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. During Ramadan, let us create awareness on use of resources, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity to adopt a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses urgent environmental issues. 

Ramadan witnesses an over-consumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us be patient on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land/ space. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage.

Let us be away from our routine habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environment and our future generations. We need to understand that any mismanagement of our precious available resources will be having an irreversible impacts on our ecology and for our future generations. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace “green” practices, especially during Ramadan.

environment-protection-muslims

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As human beings, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Some basic thoughts are:

  • Support and utilize local produce. 
  • Plan food usage with no wastage. 
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Generating less quantity of waste especially food waste. Support & practice recycling and reuse. 
  • No littering especially in common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours. 
  • Eliminate use of disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc. Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.